FirstNet is not a new idea. It has been in the works in some shape or form for almost a decade, being born out of the 9/11 Commission to enhance communications used by Fire, Police, and EMS. The First Responder Network Authority was first created in 2012. After 5 years of development, AT&T partnered with FirstNet to create a network strictly for public safety.
Who is FirstNet for?
FirstNet, as the acronym states, is a dedicated network for First Responders and Public Safety. The reasoning for this is largely linked to the events of 9/11/2001. Voice communications channels became overloaded, due to the extreme overload of the RF systems at the time. This was not only limited to voice though, Police and EMS data terminals suffered greatly for the same reason. After the 9/11 Commission, there was a call to create a network strictly allocated to Public Safety, so that a problem like this does not happen, and thus FirstNet was born.
What does it provide?
FirstNet is revolutionary in what it can accomplish. It is the first dedicated cellular network built strictly for the Public Safety. The purpose is to provide a dedicated wireless communications system for police officers, fire departments, paramedics and other public safety personnel. During situations, where multiple agencies converge on the same small area, it will allow them to gain priority access to communications networks.
When it comes to the equipment itself, FirstNet is looking to harden towers and infrastructure. But this does not mean, a site in California will be hardened in the same way as a site in Tallahassee. Each site will he upgraded to fit the needs of that particular site. This will include backup equipment to create a redundancy and resiliency to withstand adverse conditions.
There is also the question of what will happen to all the excess bandwidth during times when it is not in use. FirstNet is currently working on a plan for providing this excess to other users, while keeping priority access available to First Responders.
What part of the Spectrum does it occupy?
First net will occupy Band 14 when fully implemented. In layman’s terms that is downlink on 758-768 MHz and uplink on 788-798 MHz. Luckily for Operators and Interference Hunters, Soldier Hill Signal does provide a Filter that covers these frequencies, specifically for FirstNet.
When will it be implemented?
As of March 2018, FirstNet has been implemented nationwide, off band 14. It will take time to build out the infrastructure and upgrade all necessary equipment. The timeline for this is a 5 year plan. FirstNet is looking to implement around 20% coverage per year, until complete. Luckily for the public, all 50 states and 2 territories agreed to implement FirstNet, and are all following a similar timeline.