AT&T to build nation's first public safety network

Dive Brief:

  • The Department of Commerce has selected AT&T for a $6.5B contract to build the first national public safety network, as reported by CNN.
  • FirstNet is the Commerce Department group that will pay out the amount over the next five years and provide 20 MHz of telecommunication spectrum. AT&T will invest an additional $40 billion over the full 25-year contract to build and run the network. 
  • The network is intended to allow first responders in all 50 states — including police, firefighters and emergency medical staff — share critical information without the difficulty of being on separate radio systems.

Dive Insight:

The project plans to use IoT to improve safety by providing near real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergency. Other technology like wearable sensors and cameras, as well as camera-equipped drones and robots, are also planned to deliver near real-time images of emergency scenes — like fires — for first responders.

While the system will likely not be ready until the end of 2017, it has been a long-awaited development among government officials and emergency personnel. The genesis of the project dates back to the 9/11 attacks, when emergency responders were unable or failed to communicate with other departments on the scene that were using different radio frequencies. The 9/11 Commission called for a public safety network in its recommendations more than a decade ago, and Oregon Congressman Greg Walden indicated this network as the "last major plank" from the 9/11 Commissions findings that needed to be implemented. 

The public safety network is not the only major smart city-related development in the works for AT&T. The telecom giant is also testing capabilities for the 5th Generation network (or 5G) along with competitors like Verizon. While smart cities continue to develop and depend more on quick and efficient communications, it is likely that AT&T will remain a major player in the space.

Filed Under: Energy & Utilities Policy & Planning
Top image credit: Adobe Stock