AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority recently announced the launch of the FirstNet network core. With the launch, first responders now have nationwide access to a specialized communications system designed to meet their unique needs.

“Outdated communications capabilities are a threat to public safety,” said Ed Davis, former Boston police commissioner. “We’ve seen it repeatedly when disasters strike–from September 11, the Boston Marathon and Parkland. We’ve been advocating for the future of communications to bring us a modern solution that will empower us with next-generation tools. And with FirstNet, that future is here, giving us an experience we can’t get on any commercial network.”

Since receiving the FirstNet contract in March of 2017, AT&T has been busy. As part of a public-private partnership, AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority have worked together to get the broadband network up and running. From launching a new app developer to getting a new president and releasing a tribal consulting policy, FirstNet and AT&T have been pushing closer to launching the much-anticipated broadband network.

“The launch of the network core comes a year into the FirstNet public-private partnership. It’s been a non-stop 12 months,” said Chris Sambar, SVP, AT&T–FirstNet. “And we’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule. But bringing the FirstNet network core to life is one of the most exciting milestones yet.”

AT&T describes the launch of the FirstNet evolved packet core as a “major breakthrough for public safety.” Essentially, the evolved packet core is FirstNet’s brain and central nervous system–it enables the network to function and facilitates the flow of information. With the launch, first responders gained access to a highly secure environment that will serve as a foundation for more advanced functionality as the FirstNet build-out progresses.

The initial launch includes a few key benefits for first responders:

  • Built on physically separate hardware–The FirstNet core completely separates public safety’s traffic from all commercial traffic.
  • Encrypted from end-to-end–The FirstNet core comes with FIPS 140-2 compliant VPN solutions, radio, transport and network core encryption, and advanced physical and logical security protocols to keep all traffic on the network protected.
  • Monitored 24/7/365–The FirstNet core will be monitored at all times by a dedicated Security Operations Center.
  • Heightened capabilities–The FirstNet core will unlock different levels of priority paired with a local control interface. Meaning, eligible first responders can boost priority levels to best support specific situational responses.
  • Architected for superior reliability and availability–The FirstNet core will help enable the 99.99 percent end-to-end service availability objective. There will be multiple geographically distributed core sites nationwide for redundancy and performance.
  • Increasing capabilities–The FirstNet core will deliver a range of next-generation public safety capabilities, including Push-to-Talk and z-Axis location-based services.

In 12 short months, AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority have gone from contract announcement to nationwide launch. While this is a significant step forward, FirstNet has a long road ahead of it to full deployment and interoperability. Here’s hoping they can keep up the fast pace.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs