AT&T revealed plans to light up FirstNet spectrum on a third of its tower locations in 2018 after getting clearance this week to deploy the 700MHz airwaves it won as part of the nationwide public safety network contract.
The operator said construction work will span the next five years and include launches on both new and existing sites. At a Senate hearing in July 2017, AT&T’s FirstNet SVP Chris Sambar said initial deployment locations will be determined based on capacity needs.
As work progresses, first responders will continue to receive priority coverage on AT&T’s commercial network. AT&T said it already counts nearly 30,000 connections from more than 350 public safety agencies across 40 states participating in FirstNet. Connections include smartphones and in-vehicle modems, among other things, the operator explained.
Core launch coming
AT&T also noted it is “only weeks away” from launching its dedicated evolved packet network core for FirstNet. The operator said the core was built to FirstNet specifications and will feature special hardware to separate first responder from commercial traffic; end-to-end encryption; constant monitoring; and tiered prioritisation capabilities.
FirstNet’s core will be connected to state radio access networks being constructed to allow for interoperability across state lines, AT&T added.
Speaking at an investor conference this week, AT&T CFO John Stephens said the operator spent 2017 investing in the core network and already received a $300 million reimbursement payment from the government for expenses incurred.
In December 2017, Stephens revealed AT&T will likely spend more than a fifth of the $6.5 billion in funding it will receive from the government for FirstNet in the first year to jump-start construction.