- AT&T and FirstNet announced that first responders can gain access to their nationwide public safety network.
- First responders can either visit an AT&T store or sign up online.
- AT&T and FirsNet’s public safety network uses a portion of the 700MHz spectrum solely for first responders and emergency crew.
Up until now, only emergency crew that supply phones and plans could take advantage of AT&T’s approach to a public safety network. That changes today as the carrier, in partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), announced that any first responder can now take advantage of the network.
Thanks to the partnership, anyone who is a firefighter, paramedic, or other emergency first responder can either to go an AT&T store or sign up for a compatible device online. Alternatively, some agencies will provide compatible devices, though the options are nice to have.
First responders then get a FirstNet SIM card needed to access the physically-separate network core. Those that do not receive devices through their agencies sign up as Subscriber Paid Users, while those that do sign up as Agency Paid Users.
Regardless of the tier, every first responder can use the same channels as if they were government or state agency employees. This is particularly a boon for volunteer first responders, who reportedly make up 70 percent of firefighters in the U.S. and might otherwise be cut off from their agency-employed counterparts.
As for which devices are partially or completely compatible with the public safety network, take a look at the list below:
- Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
- LG V35 ThinQ
- Moto G6 Play
- Samsung Galaxy J3
- Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and S8 Active
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- BlackBerry KEYone
- iPhone 6S and newer
- Sonim XP5S
- Sonim XP8
- Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router
The news should come as very welcome for AT&T and first responders alike. Initial efforts to kick off a public safety network started in 2008 with the 700MHz spectrum auction. The idea was for the FCC to set aside 20MHz of spectrum, which would be used through a partnership with auction bidders.
Eventually, FirstNet Authority formed and was provided with over $6 billion in funding from the FCC’s AWS-3 spectrum auction. AT&T won the partnership bid in 2017 and garnered support from all 50 U.S. states, five U.S. territories, and Washington D.C. to build a nationwide public safety network. The carrier must maintain the network for at least 25 years.
AT&T noted that first responders currently rely on over 10,000 separate radio networks that oftentimes do not communicate with each other. Today’s news shifted things closer to a future where so many radio networks will cease to be.