FAQs & Facts
- Am I required to use FirstNet?
- Why not just use existing commercial LTE coverage?
- What is the difference between AT&T's commercial and FirstNet service?
- What provisions has FirstNet put in place to keep agency data secure?
- What differentiating security features are available to FirstNet subscribers (compared to typical commercial subscribers)?
- What does the term "FirstNet" refer to and what is FirstNet?
- What is the purpose of FirstNet?
- What role does the First Responder Network Authority play?
- What are the duties and responsibilities of the FirstNet Authority?
- What will be possible with FirstNet?
- Will FirstNet technology stay current?
- Will FirstNet be a replacement for LMR?
- What are the contractual relationships with FirstNet and the NPSBN?
- Why was FirstNet created?
- How will FirstNet benefit public safety?
- How will states and agencies participate in the build-out of FirstNet?
- What will users pay for FirstNet services?
- What is the purpose of SCIPs?
- Who will be able to use the NPSBN?
One very important fact is that there is no mandate for any agency to subscribe to the AT&T/FirstNet service; adopting AT&T/FirstNet as a service should be made based upon its value to the subscribing entity.
Commercial LTE networks are market-driven, built based upon profit models. Public safety use of LTE must rely upon a different model; one that values priority access, places an emphasis on group communication, provides coverage in rural and underserved areas, and builds reliability, resiliency and security into the network and user devices.
While FirstNet and commercial subscribers operate on the same coverage network (RAN), the most significant difference is that FirstNet subscribers are given priority access to the entire network preventing heavy commercial traffic from interfering with public safety use.
The FirstNet network supports mobile VPN solutions which provide FIPS 140-2 certified encryption for access to critical public safety applications. The FirstNet network relies on highly secure data center facilities with 24x7x365 video surveillance and controlled/alarmed access by authorized personnel. An advanced AT&T SOC monitors domestic as well as global network activity in order to identify, protect against, and resolve threats as they develop. To determine whether additional safeguards are warranted on agency networks, talk to your AT&T/FirstNet representative and your IT provider.
What differentiating security features are available to FirstNet subscribers (compared to typical commercial subscribers)?
FirstNet subscribers will have the benefits of Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) solutions for multifactor authentication, mobile single sign-on (SSO), and integrity for federated FirstNet users. Apps found on the FirstNet Application Catalog will have been screened and certified using strict security controls. Dedicated U.S.-based Care and Security Operations Centers will be available 24x7x365 to address subscriber questions and concerns.
"FirstNet" is the name given to The First Responder Network Authority. FirstNet, the Authority, is charged with building and operating the first high-speed wireless, broadband data network dedicated to public safety. This network is named the "Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network" (NPSBN). However, the term "FirstNet" has come to be used by many to refer to both the Authority and the Network.
The FirstNet Network will be a single, nationwide network that facilitates communication for public safety users during emergencies and on the job every day. Think of FirstNet as a bigger, more reliable, secure and resilient “wireless pipe.” FirstNet’s goal is to provide access and coverage where and when public safety needs it most.
FirstNet is being designed to improve communication among local, state, regional, tribal and national emergency services personnel. This broadband data network will help save lives and protect the health and safety of all Americans. FirstNet fulfills a fundamental need of the public safety community for a single, mission-critical communications system enabling force multiplier effectiveness.
FirstNet exists to serve first responders and the public safety community with dedicated, highly reliable, nationwide wireless data services, applications and user devices, at the lowest possible costs.
The "Spectrum Act" legislation created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is charged with establishing a nationwide public safety broadband network based on a single, national network architecture. FirstNet has the authority to take all actions necessary to ensure the design, construction, deployment, and operations of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). FirstNet will consult with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities as part of their efforts.
FirstNet is headed by a 15-member board comprised of representatives from public safety; local, state and federal government; and the wireless industry. FirstNet will also establish network deployment phases that will include substantial rural coverage milestones for each phase of the network construction and deployment. FirstNet will look at special considerations for areas or regions with unique homeland security or national security needs. FirstNet will consult with a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in each state, designated by the Governor of that state.
The First Responder Network Authority shall hold the single public safety wireless license granted and take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the NPSBN, in consultation with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities, the Director of NIST, the Commission, and the public safety advisory committee. These shall include:
(A) ensuring nationwide standards for use and access of the network;
(B) issuing open, transparent, and competitive requests for proposals to private sector entities for the purposes of building, operating, and maintaining the network;
(C) encouraging that such requests leverage existing commercial wireless infrastructure to speed deployment of the network; and
(D) managing and overseeing the implementation and execution of contracts or agreements with non-Federal entities to build, operate, and maintain the network.
(Note: the above text is paraphrased from 47 U.S. Code § 1426, the law creating FirstNet and authorizing the NPSBN.)
As of this writing, FirstNet has completed duties (A)-(C) and is beginning (D), a 25-year duty!
FirstNet will be used to send data, video, images and text and make cellular-quality voice calls. In the future, critical voice communications may also be supported. Users will get fast access to information they need to meet their mission. Unlike commercial wireless networks, FirstNet will allow for priority access among public safety users. FirstNet will also give incident commanders and local officials an element of control over the network so, for example, they can determine who can access applications, and determine priority use during large emergencies.
The NPSBN is being built upon AT&T's existing commercial broadband infrastructure and will continue to benefit from commercial technology advances over the course of the contract.
FirstNet is not a replacement for critical voice communications. The work to establish LTE standards for mission critical voice (MCV) continues, however there remain significant hurdles before LTE can provide an equivalent alternative to LMR. In addition to not yet being capable of supporting all essential LMR features, the existing coverage of LTE networks, both FirstNet and other commercial providers, is in many cases notably less than purpose-built public safety LMR systems. While LTE excels for mobile data, LMR remains the standard for mission critical voice. With very few exceptions, continued support and investment in LMR systems for critical voice is recommended.
FirstNet is the federal authority that will oversee and manage the NPSBN contract with AT&T, however, the subscriber community will contract service directly with AT&T. Separate from contractual relationships, FirstNet's mission is to represent first responder interests and be responsive to designated state SPOCs (Single Point of Contact). In New York, the SPOC is Michael Sprague, NYS DHSES OIEC Director. The public safety subscriber community should work with DHSES and through the BBUG to bring any concerns or questions not addressed by their AT&T contact.
After 9/11, the public safety community fought hard to fulfill the 9/11 Commission's last standing recommendation and convince Congress that it needed a dedicated, reliable network to provide advanced data communications capabilities nationwide. During emergencies, public safety requires priority service and preemption.
Using FirstNet will improve situational awareness and decision-making. Just as smartphones have changed our personal lives, FirstNet devices and applications will ultimately change the way public safety operates. FirstNet will save time during emergencies when seconds count. FirstNet will save money for states by leveraging nationwide purchasing power and scale economies. Reliable access to information using FirstNet can help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safer.
To make FirstNet a nationwide network, all states must have a local Radio Access Network (RAN) that connects to the FirstNet core. FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated state Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to inform the implementation of each state's RAN and to continue to consult on topics important to the public safety broadband stakeholders.
FirstNet must offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract sufficient public safety users to meet contractual public safety adoption goals and make FirstNet self-sustaining. Subscribing to FirstNet services and applications will be voluntary. The list price for FirstNet services is available on their website, however FirstNet is now available on NY State Contract with more competitive pricing. Agencies may also negotiate their own rates directly with their AT&T sales contact.
Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans (SCIPs) are locally-driven, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-disciplinary statewide plans to enhance emergency communications. Our SCIP outlines and defines the current and future vision for communications interoperability within the municipalities, counties, local and tribal regions in the State of New York. In addition, the NYS SCIP will align our emergency response agencies with the goals, objectives, and initiatives for achieving that vision.
SCIPs are living documents that are updated on an annual basis, or as frequently as needed. The SCIP provides strategic direction and alignment for those responsible for interoperable communications at the State, regional, and local levels.
FirstNet's purpose is to serve public safety. There are two classes of eligibility for FirstNet: Primary Users and Extended Primary Users. Primary Users include law enforcement, fire, EMS, 911 Call-takers, and emergency managers. Primary users always have priority network access and pre-emption. There are many more agencies and functions that support public safety and at times might need priority access to broadband in order to effectively provide this support; these are the Extended Primary Users. Extended primary users have higher priority than commercial users and when needed, a primary user or administrator can temporarily "elevate" an extended primary user to the same level of priority as primary users.