Last year the First Responders Network Authority awarded a $6.5 billion contract to AT&T to build out a nationwide LTE network for public safety use. AT&T, which is allowed to use the 20 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum for commercial services as well, is further investing $40 billion into the project. By the end of last month, all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories agreed to let AT&T build out FirstNet coverage — including New Hampshire, which made a last-minute reversal of an opt-out.
FirstNet has a lot of implications–for AT&T’s capital expenditure plans, for its spectrum strategy, for the first responders that will depend on the network for critical communications, and also for the booming internet of things space. In a recent blog post, Mike Zeto, general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, highlighted the role the internet of things will play, along with FirstNet, in improving how public safety officials do their work.
Zeto called out four use cases:
- Fleet management solutions that help dispatchers improve response efficiency and come with enhanced push-to-talk communications and the ability to “determine the on-board capabilities” of vehicles.
- Connected infrastructure like lighting sites equipped with traffic and road condition sensors that can improve routing for first responders.
- Drone applications where, for example, a drone could assess an accident site while paramedics are en route, or firefighters managing a wildfire.
- And connected gear like wearable cameras that enable “see-what-I-see-capabilities to support search and rescue,” as well as biometric sensors that can monitor individual safety.
“As these capabilities are brought onto the FirstNet platform,” Zeto wrote, “first responders can be confident they’ll have highly secure, reliable access to near real-time data and video feeds. This information can support response, help with situational awareness and boost collaboration. Plus, all public safety traffic on the FirstNet platform will be routed through a dedicated core with end-to-end encryption to help meet first responders’ sensitive communications needs. We’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities.”