AT&T has won a multi-year contract to build a nation-wide high-speed network for first responders and says it will invest $40 billion in building it. The communications giant will receive up to $6.5 billion in funding from an independent arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce as well as access to wireless spectrum.

First Responder Network Authority, also known as FirstNet, disclosed the contract award on Thursday. Funding comes from sales of wireless spectrum.

The network is designed to provide one network for all emergency services, which now utilize commercial networks. FirstNet and AT&T also plan to incorporate forthcoming 5G technology into the network.

“We are honored to work with FirstNet to build and manage America’s first-ever nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety,” said Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T in North Carolina.

“Today marks a major step forward for public safety and the broadband network our Nation’s first responders have fought for and deserve. Our approach to FirstNet is designed for states and for first responders. We look forward to working with state and local public safety officials across North Carolina to build a strong and highly secure communications network that meets the unique needs of our state’s first responders. It will provide the coverage, experience and next generation technologies our first responders require to help keep our communities, our state and our country safe.”

AT&T was awarded the contract in a competitive process.

The idea for a first responder network dates back to the 9/11 Commission which recommended the establishment of a public safety broadband network in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Through this new public-private partnership with FirstNet, AT&T will deliver a dedicated, interoperable network and ecosystem that will give first responders the technology they need to better communicate and collaborate across agencies and jurisdictions – local, state and national,” FirstNet said in a statement..

AT&T says it will invest $40 billion over the life of the contract to build and maintain the network.

Industry trade group Wireless Infrastructure Association CEO Jonathan Adelstein praised the decision.

“FirstNet will play a crucial role in communities of all sizes by enabling public safety professionals to better serve citizens, and to protect themselves in the process,” he said. “This reliable, high-speed network will maximize the use of existing infrastructure to power novel applications that increase situational awareness and help save lives. We applaud the many stakeholders involved for their hard work in reaching this milestone. The wireless infrastructure industry is prepared to roll up our sleeves to get this implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The project is expected to create as many as 10,000 jobs over the next two years. The build-out will begin later this year.

“Today is a landmark day for public safety across the Nation and shows the incredible progress we can make through public-private partnerships,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who announced the contract.

“FirstNet is a critical infrastructure project that will give our first responders the communications tools they need to keep America safe and secure. This public-private partnership will also spur innovation and create over ten thousand new jobs in this cutting-edge sector.”

​FirstNet’s key priorities include:

  • A nationwide seamless, IP-based, high-speed mobile communications network
  • Priority access goes to first responders
  • Improve rescue and recovery operations to help keep first responders out of harm’s way
  • Better connect first responders to the critical information they need in an emergency
  • Further the development of public safety focused IoT and Smart City solutions such as providing near real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergenc
  • Enable advanced capabilities, like wearable sensors and cameras for police and firefighters, and camera-equipped drones and robots that can deliver near real-time images of events, such as fires, floods or crimes

Source: FirstNet

  • VIDEO: Watch a video report about FirstNet at