AT&T has announced that it is launching 5G service for fire departments and other first responders through FirstNet.

The company recently announced its approach to 5G for first responders along with two other initiatives: tower-to-core encryption and the FirstNet Health &Wellness Coalition, which "supports responders holistically," AT&T says.

"Our approach to 5G for public safety is unlike anything else," AT&T says. "We’ve upgraded the dedicated FirstNet network core to enable reliable 5G connectivity that is being built to intuitively provide America’s first responders with the most optimal experience. While 5G will ultimately bring a combination of benefits like ultra-low latency and ultra-high speeds to support all kinds of users, it’s essential we approach 5G in a different way for first responders. That’s why, with FirstNet, we’re taking the right steps for public safety in a way that meets their unique mission needs."

The company says 5G connectivity on FirstNet will be "ideal for IoT and video intelligence solutions." Examples include being able to deploy cameras to the front gate of a stadium and screen attendees’ temperature to potentially help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and using 5G in an ambulance to transmit patient data back to the emergency room.

First responders in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 venues will gain access to AT&T mmWave (5G+) spectrum this April, while also maintaining always-on priority and preemption across LTE—Band 14 spectrum plus all of AT&T’s commercial LTE spectrum bands, which currently covers 2.71 million square miles of the country. "This is the beginning of a multi-phase, multi-year journey to deliver full 5G capabilities on FirstNet for public safety, but we’re rolling out more locations all the time and will continue to approach 5G for public safety in a way that meets their unique mission needs," AT&T says.

“5G for FirstNet is not your typical 5G. Now, there’s no doubt that 5G has a lot to offer the entire public safety community, but what’s most important is ensuring that as new technologies become available—whether it’s 5G, augmented reality, edge computing, or others—that we take a first responder-centric view in how we approach its deployment. That’s what we committed to four years ago when we became public safety’s communications partner, and it’s what we will continue to do for decades to come. This commitment is why FirstNet is the only network to provide comprehensive, tower-to-core encryption for public safety. And it’s why our work with this community goes beyond connectivity by also helping ensure that those who put their lives on the line are holistically at their best day in and day out.,” says Jason Porter, president, Public Sector and FirstNet, AT&T.

FirstNet user Leroy Barrera, administrator of Information Technology for the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, says, “As the largest juvenile probation department in Texas, it is essential our teams in the field have not only reliable communications, but connectivity built and designed specifically for public safety. And that’s exactly what FirstNet is. Being a part of the FirstNet 5G+ trial in Houston has given our team a glimpse into the future of what next-generation technology can provide for our first responders and the communities we serve, and we look forward to seeing public safety’s network continue to advance for years to come.”

As a FirstNet subscriber there is no additional charge for 5G connectivity, whether for access to current 5G+ spectrum or future 5G spectrum on FirstNet. All first responders need to access 5G on FirstNet is a 5G-capable FirstNet device, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5G Ultra or the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. Individual verified first responders not already on FirstNet can sign up online or at the more than 5,000 AT&T retail stores across the country.

In addition to 5G, AT&T announced greater security for the FirstNet network.

Tower-to-core encryption enhances FirstNet security, AT&T says. "Security is paramount. That’s why FirstNet is designed with a defense-in-depth security strategy that goes well beyond standard commercial network security measures. This provides protection without sacrificing usability or impacting public safety’s missions. And now, we’ve gone farther than anyone in the industry to secure public safety communications by introducing comprehensive tower-to-core encryption based on open industry standards," the company says.

FirstNet will be the first-ever nationwide network with this comprehensive tower-to-core encryption network encryption, according to AT&T. Tower-to-core encryption means FirstNet traffic will be automatically secured as it moves from the cell tower, through the backhaul, to the core and back again. "Commercial networks may encrypt parts of the communications pathway, but only FirstNet will have encryption along the entire route. To achieve this, we’re rolling out security upgrades on every cell tower across the country. Houston and Cleveland are the first 2 cities to benefit this month, with nationwide completion expected by Q1 2022," the company says.

The final FirstNet initiative recently announced by AT&T is the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition. "The FirstNet network just turned three. And when we set out on this historic and critical initiative, we committed to 'be there' for America’s first responders. We understand the service public safety provides to our communities does not come without personal sacrifice and burdens. That’s why we’ve gone beyond our commitment to build and operate FirstNet and established the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition," the company says.

 - AT&T/FirstNet


The mission of the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition is to integrate responder, community, industry and academic capabilities to support the health, wellness and readiness of America’s first responders. The Coalition has more than two dozen members, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Emergency Management Association to name a few. You can read more about the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition in our latest blog post.