Users in Opt-In States to Immediately Have Priority Service on AT&T Network
Friday, March 31, 2017 | Comments

Public-safety users in states that opt in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will have priority access on all bands of the AT&T network while 700 MHz band 14 is built out, said FirstNet officials March 30 following FirstNet’s contract award to AT&T.

“Public safety will have available service with priority on day one after opt in,” said FirstNet Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Jeff Bratcher. “We are also adding pre-emption on those bands.”

Pre-emption will follow priority service, Bratcher said. In the meantime, once a state opts in, public safety can take advantage of the $180 billion investment AT&T has made in its nationwide Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.

“That is a huge thing for public safety because once the governor agrees to opt in, that automatically becomes available to everyone in that state,” said Harlin McEwen, chair of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). “It will take a while for the band 14 eNodeBs to be built out in a state, but you’ll have access to the network.”

Bratcher highlighted three day-one task orders following the contract signing. The first is the delivery of the state plan portal, the mechanism for state plan development and refinement. AT&T will begin the design and implementation of a nationwide core and dedicated traffic, isolating public safety from consumer traffic. The third is setting up distinct operations centers for FirstNet traffic.

Bill Schrier, senior adviser with FirstNet, said public safety expects specific things from the network. The first is coverage equal to or better than current local wireless service, similar cost to current data services, and device and application parity with what public-safety users have in their smartphones.

In data collected, Schrier said public safety also wants quality of service and priority and pre-emption followed by deployables or satellite-linked services including vehicular network systems. Public safety also wants a first responder help center or service desk manned by a dispatcher or first responder. He also said there must be some way to bring your own device and still have FirstNet functions and features, along with video connectivity; identify, credential and access management (ICAM) and single sign on; an applications ecosystem; and a voice assistant that allows public safety to do things handsfree. Smart cities and public safety internet of things (IoT) applications are also on the wish list.

The initial task order is for AT&T to deliver the eNodeBs that will operate on the nationwide network, along with devices and applications, in coming months to the FirstNet innovation lab in Boulder, Colorado. Bratcher said he does not expect to do opt-out state equipment testing in the FirstNet lab.

David Buchanan, director of consultation, said FirstNet will begin a series of events with AT&T and state teams next week to further engage with states before the draft state plans are disseminated.

“We’ll be working closely with AT&T in their labs and our lab to understand how it works,” Bratcher said. “We’re going to be pushing them hard. This is a partnership for public safety by public safety. We are proud of where we are today and looking for the future.”

“This board is very sensitive to our pricing structure going forward,” said FirstNet Board Member Kevin McGinnis. “We realize if we are not in the ballpark, we will not have adopters. As the trusted overseers of this network, it is our job to monitor and make sure that happens.”

“We’re excited to get to work,” Bratcher said.

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