Public Safety Drives FirstNet Innovation

Jim Bugel, President – FirstNet, AT&T
June 25, 2024
Public Safety

Public Safety Drives FirstNet Innovation

Designed for every first responder and member of the extended public safety community, FirstNet®, Built with AT&T is America’s Public Safety Network. With more than 6 million connections and over 28,000 public safety agencies and organizations subscribed,1 FirstNet is ready to help public safety complete their mission. Through ongoing public safety feedback and an intentional focus on the niche requirements of emergency response, we are continuously working to bring connectivity, functionality and choice to public safety.   

As one of America’s largest investors in connectivity, AT&T is proud to serve as a critical infrastructure provider. And earlier this year, together with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), we announced a series of strategic investments that support a robust foundation for 5G on FirstNet, expanded mission-critical services, and enhanced coverage for America’s first responders. This includes launching 1,000 new sites within the next two years – with more than 160 of these sites having already launched so far this year. The continued investment in FirstNet means more coverage, more capabilities, and more capacity for public safety, boosting the safety of our first responders and communities.  

Public safety’s catalyst for innovation 

FirstNet has proven to be a catalyst for technology and advancement for public safety and the industry. From new devices and applications to deployable network assets and in-building solutions providing an added layer of connectivity, first responders are our priority: 

  • As agencies are continuing to evolve their mission critical communication to broadband on FirstNet, interoperability between Land Mobile Radio (LMR) and wireless is an increasingly important capability. This month, first responders in Fairfax County made the first interoperable call between LMR and FirstNet Push-To-Talk (FNPTT) utilizing FirstNet Interworking Function (IWF). Exclusively designed to connect legacy networks like LMR with FirstNet Push-to-Talk users, upon its commercial launch, FirstNet IWF will offer direct network-to-network integration and acts as a highly secure interface between wireless and LMR, allowing users to connect with both two-way radios and cellular devices. IWF will enable first responders to access a seamless, functional, and secure ecosystem that will afford them the rich capabilities of a broadband network while also being able to communicate with those using legacy LMR networks – bringing more options and better technology to the frontlines. IWF is currently in the Beta phase with several pre-selected agencies. 
  • FNPTT is already a critical component of emergency response and new upgrades to the platform are improving the overall user experience. Updated enhancements provide users with a familiar Land-Mobile Radio (LMR) experience alongside innovative network capabilities. Users can now access a new, discreet listening feature during emergencies and first responder agencies can also quickly request assistance from other public safety agencies during disaster scenarios requiring mutual aid, like storm response. These updates are key for the next generation of first responder devices, like the L3Harris XL Series two-way radios — ruggedized, simplified tools that give users the familiar form factor of a legacy LMR device with enhanced Mission Critical network capabilities available with FNPTT. 
  • FirstNet continues to bring new capabilities to FirstNet Messaging that allow users to better coordinate with multiple agencies during large scale events, communicating with different audiences, controlling what media can be shared and allowing public safety to define message delivery based on contact lists or geographical areas. Ease of use is at the core of these updates with group chats now easily transformed into video conferences or voice calls instantly and allow users to share locations—giving agencies the power to prioritize communications during special events and emergencies. 

This week, the FirstNet Authority and the Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR) at the National institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are hosting the 5×5 conference in Chicago. The conference brings together leaders in public safety, academia, government and industry to exchange ideas, check out the latest innovations and plan for the future of public safety. These new mission-critical solutions and enhancements are only the latest step for FirstNet. With more than 210 apps in the FirstNet App Catalog and 755 FirstNet Ready® devices, we are creating more capabilities and a better user experience for all subscribers.  

Mission ready, rain or shine 

And with storm season in full swing, the FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) has been working in tandem with the AT&T Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) team to ensure our nationwide fleet of 180+ dedicated deployable FirstNet assets get to where they are needed the most.  

This year, AT&T developed a custom-built, 45-foot landing craft for the maritime fleet capable of transporting pickup trucks, Compact Rapid Deployables (CRDs) and other essential solutions across water. Dramatically increasing our ability to deliver our dedicated FirstNet assets to affected areas, the landing craft and the rest of the maritime fleet are a part of the more than 750 pieces of specialized response equipment that traverse land, sea and air, enhancing our self-sufficiency and reducing our reliance on local communities. 

We recognize the mental, emotional and physical toll disasters can have on first responders. Agencies on FirstNet can request a FirstNet ROG the Dog therapy animals at no additional charge to support the wellbeing of those on the front line.

As America’s first responders continue to answer the call, we remain committed to finding new ways to innovate and enhance FirstNet to provide them with the reliable communications they need – no matter the emergency.  


1 Represents total Capital Investment, on a consolidated basis, including acquisitions of spectrum from 2019-2023. The years ended December 31, 2020 through 2023 present results from continuing operations, and the year ended December 31, 2019 includes comparable adjustments to remove capital expenditures from discontinued operations.

FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks and service marks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. 

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