The First Responder Network Authority Board this week approved the first set of investments for enhancing FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. Specifically, the board approved more than $200 million for initial network upgrades to set FirstNet on the road to 5G and expand the fleet of deployable assets.
“These investments mark the next major step in our mission as we continue to evolve the FirstNet network based on public safety’s needs,” said FirstNet Authority Board Chair Edward Horowitz. In addition to taking a first step towards 5G, the improvements will also boost on-demand coverage for public safety, he added.
During the virtual meeting, the board issued two orders under the contract with AT&T. The board approved $218 million for the FirstNet Authority to invest in:
- Initial generational upgrades to enable 5G network capabilities. Evolving the network to 5G is expected to be a multi-phase effort, beginning with upgrades to the dedicated FirstNet network core. The core is separate, redundant and highly secure. It separates public safety traffic from non-public safety user traffic, and enables differentiated services for network users. In the future, 5G is expected to drive major increases in the quantity and types of connected devices for FirstNet users, including vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and sensors.
- Expanding the fleet of FirstNet deployables to enhance network coverage and capacity for public safety during emergencies and events. In 2019, public safety turned to the FirstNet deployables for additional support in more than 450+ operations around the nation. In 2020 these assets have continued to support public safety communications, such as during the COVID-19 response, at large events, emergencies, and responses to disasters, including wildfires, tornados, and hurricanes. The FirstNet fleet includes 72 land-based deployables such as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks, plus three airborne Flying COWs and the FirstNet One aerostat. The board’s actions will grow the fleet to help meet the increasing demand for these assets from public safety.
“This is a significant milestone for the FirstNet Authority’s strategic investment program, which is driven by our partners in public safety,” said FirstNet Authority Executive Director Edward Parkinson. “We appreciate their continued support as we work with them to identify investment opportunities for FirstNet, the only nationwide public safety broadband network. This is just the beginning; we look forward to the work ahead to achieve the full potential of this network.”
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