AT&T Signs Task Order for Band 14 Buildout, Plans 95% Population Coverage
Thursday, March 08, 2018 | Comments

AT&T signed a new task order with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) for building out 700 MHz band 14 in all 56 states and territories. AT&T executives said the carrier has already begun buildout in most states, but the new task order formalizes the next step in AT&T’s year-old agreement with FirstNet to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

The carrier has nearly 30,000 FirstNet subscribers from more than 350 agencies across more than 40 states and territories. The network connections range from smartphones to in-vehicle modems.

The majority of the subscribers are agency paid versus bring your own device (BOYD) subscribers. A controlled BYOD launch is planned by the end of the month. The carrier’s systems used for public-safety agencies are different than those used for individual subscribers, so the BYOD launch will be separate, said Chris Sambar, AT&T FirstNet senior vice president.

“We’re pretty thrilled about where the adoption is so far,” he said.

The overall market for primary users is 3.5 million devices, including smartphones, vehicles modems, tablets and other devices, while extended primary users number 11 million to 11.5 million devices.

“Over time, the number expands because you will have an officer with more than one device,” Sambar said.

AT&T plans to have band 14 on one-third of its cell sites by the end of this year with 95 percent of the U.S. population eventually covered by the dedicated public-safety spectrum. Industry researchers estimate AT&T has about 80,000 macrocell sites nationwide. All new sites will have band 14, Sambar said.

“As the First Responder Network Authority’s partner, only AT&T can implement band 14 and give first responders access to its unique attributes,” said a FirstNet statement. “The buildout will increase coverage and capacity for first responders in every state and territory, including those in rural areas.”

The carrier is also on track to deliver a dedicated evolved packet core (EPC) by the end of March, a $1.5 billion initiative. FirstNet officials are testing and verifying the core rollout, Sambar said.

“The FirstNet Authority is the keeper of the network, and they certify and monitor everything we do,” he said.

With the core comes the FirstNet Local Control portal, which will allow public-safety agencies to manage multiple levels of priority for their first responder subscribers.

“First responders like LMR because they have control,” Sambar said. “We’re giving them the same capability on their network. We’re telling them that ‘all your primary users are prioritized, but you can change it if you want or call our 800 number if you want us to do it.’ … We’re letting them control a portion of our network.”

The FirstNet core completely separates public safety’s traffic from all commercial traffic with federal information processing standard (FIPS) 140-2-compliant virtual private network (VPN) solutions, radio, transport and network core encryption, along with advanced physical and logical security protocols to protect all traffic on the network. The FirstNet core will be monitored at all times by a dedicated security operations center with a dedicated team.

The FirstNet core will connect into the state radio access networks (RANs) for nationwide interoperability, an AT&T statement said.

“This is an exciting time for FirstNet and public safety as we build out the statewide RANs and connect them to the dedicated FirstNet core network,” said FirstNet Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Jeff Bratcher. “This will be the first ever and only dedicated core infrastructure built specifically for public safety in the country. No wireless provider has done this until now.”

Although FirstNet CEO Mike Poth mentioned five and six nines reliability and availability during his keynote at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE), Sambar said the FirstNet core will help enable 99.99 percent — four nines — end-to-end service availability. There will be multiple geographically distributed core sites nationwide for redundancy and performance.

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Comments
On 7/20/18, Bruce said:
As of today some features like Wi-Fi calling and static IP addresses for video do not work on the FirstNet core, so if you need any advanced features, make sure they are working. Also AT&T is phasing out micro cells — no longer sold — a Catch 22. Make sure before you put that FirstNet subscriber module card (SIM) ln.

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