AT&T Signs on FirstNet Subscribers, Pricing Details Available
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Comments

AT&T has signed up the first subscribers in several First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) opt-in states and is offering trial services to other customers. Several state contracting vehicles are publicly available as well, although each agency negotiates individual agency pricing with AT&T.

Chris Sambar, AT&T senior vice president, declined to say exactly how many FirstNet subscribers AT&T has but said the carrier has “thousands of connections.” He said there is a contracting process, including National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) contracts, for states that have opted in.

“Even if you have [a state contract], we negotiate with every individual agency,” Sambar said, citing the specific needs of each agency.

Sambar said he has 200 sales and service staff on his FirstNet team located throughout the country, but AT&T’s entire sales force will sell FirstNet service. Sambar's team will sell, support and provide education on public safety. “My team’s job is to help [the AT&T sales force].”

Wyoming
The Casper (Wyoming) Police Department (CPD) began using AT&T’s service in August after Wyoming became the second opt-in state in July. The timing was critical because of the total lunar eclipse Aug. 21 near Casper, Wyoming, which brought a huge influx of people to the state.

AT&T offered priority service in the region, and the carrier provided the department with 45 hot spot units and subscriber identity module (SIM) cards for vehicle modems in CPD vehicles. The agency also used 25 Apple iPhones with priority service.

“With priority service, you can’t kick people off the line, but it puts you next in line,” said Scott Hoffman, CPD technology manager. “That really helped us, especially with data; that was important to us.”

Hoffman said the CPD is a Verizon customer, so the agency wanted to test how AT&T’s coverage and service would compare with Verizon’s. “We wanted to get a test of AT&T hot spots and determine how they worked in Casper,” he said. “AT&T doesn’t have a huge presence here, and we wanted to make sure things would work.”

CPD is paying $40 a month per device with unlimited data, text and voice for 75 devices — 25 iPhones and 50 hot spots. The agency is using service from both AT&T and Verizon through the end of December, Hoffman said.

He said AT&T’s coverage within the city has been good without any degradation. He also said the devices do not have band 14, and 700 MHz band 14 will require a new SIM card once AT&T rolls that out.

FirstNet services such as priority and quality of service are tied directly to individual SIMs, and an AT&T spokesman confirmed AT&T is rolling out band 14 in areas of Wyoming. AT&T’s Sambar said 95 percent of the U.S. population will be covered by band 14.

The AT&T spokesman said AT&T has committed to significant investment in Wyoming as part of the FirstNet plan, including identifying and building sites in cooperation with the state.

Texas
Texas opted in to the FirstNet state plan in September. Under the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIRS) contract, FirstNet mobile unlimited plans are listed at $55.50 per smartphone per month for unlimited talk, text, data, mobile hot spot and tethering. Unlimited talk, text and data is $46.25 per month, and unlimited data, mobile hot spot and tethering for data-only devices is $37 per month. The AT&T enhanced push-to-talk (ePTT) is available for $12.35 per month without a service commitment and an ePTT add-on is $2.75.

The agreement also offers pooled data for smartphones and data-only devices. Pooled plans range from 2 to 1,000 Gigabytes (GB) of data. The pooled pricing ranges from about 7 to 15 percent off published prices, depending on the service and plan.

Louisiana
In its Oct. 25 newsletter, Louisiana said state contract pricing was made available to local agencies for FirstNet access. Louisiana has a participating addendum with the NASPO, which allows direct purchasing using the state contract, the newsletter said. “Purchasing will be facilitated through a variety of contracting tools and through negotiated pricing,” the newsletter said.

The Louisiana FirstNet NASPO amendment offers FirstNet unlimited data for data-only devices at $37.99 per month; unlimited voice and data at $47.99 per month; and unlimited voice, data and hot spots for $57.99 per month. The general NASPO FirstNet unlimited plans for the same are $40, $50 and $60 per month respectively.

All FirstNet rates are available only to public-safety entities with eligibility determined before activation.

Maryland
The Washington County (Maryland) Sheriff’s Office said in a Nov. 1 press statement that it became the first agency in the state of Maryland to be on the FirstNet network. Sheriff Doug Mullendore said about 100 deputies are using FirstNet service on smartphones, iPads and laptops.

Mullendore said the sheriff’s office is using a statewide pricing agreement that is the same as the agency was paying before going onto FirstNet. He said there is a plan in place to add band 14 in Washington County.

“AT&T has excellent coverage in Washington County and continues to do improvements,” Mullendore said. “We have had a great relationship with AT&T for a number of years and the addition of FirstNet is a further improvement to that relationship.”

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Comments
On 11/16/17, Charles R Downing said:
The reason the pricing is different is because AT&T is selling its commercially available push-to-talk (PTT) product under the guise of FirstNet. Band 14, the real FirstNet, will not be available for quite some time. They even mention SIM cards would need to be swapped eventually. A little bit of a bait and switch to call what they are selling now as FirstNet. There is nothing mission critical about what they are selling right now.

On 11/15/17, Daniel Anon said:
This is a good first step for FirstNet. But I'm wondering why a federally contracted system has such a monthly price differential for subscriber units per state. Shouldn't the monthly cost be the same for any state? Did I miss something?

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