AT&T FirstNet Makes Great Progress; Deal with Mutualink increases Inter-operability

FirstNet is a dedicated LTE network for public safety users, which passed 600,000 “connections” earlier this month.  It has been built by AT&T and has has engagements with more than 7,000 public safety agencies.

FirstNet is built in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). This helps to ensure that the FirstNet communications platform and service offerings meet the short- and long-term needs of the public safety community.

FirstNet is improving communications to allow for improved response times and outcomes for first responders from coast-to-coast, in rural and urban areas, inland and on boarders – leading to safer, and more secure communities. It provides innovation and dedicated capacity so public safety can take advantage of advanced technologies, tools and services during emergencies, such as:

  • Applications that allow first responders to reliably share videos, text messages, photos and other information during incidents in near real-time
  • Devices configured to meet the focused needs of public safety
  • Improved location services to help with mapping capabilities during rescue and recovery operations
  • Deployables available for planned and unplanned emergency events


Speaking this past week at the MoffettNathanson’s 6th  Annual Media & Communications Summit in New York City, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer John Stephens discussed how the carrier’s deployment of FirstNet is progressing rapidly and laying the groundwork for 5G.

According to AT&T, FirstNet is 25% faster than any domestic commercial network.  That claim is based on Ookla test data covering average download speeds in Q1 2019.

The FirstNet build-out is instrumental to AT&T 5G deployment plans, Stephens said. “The FirstNet contract, which is enabling us to go through a process from an LTE to evolve into a 5G network, is really working. We’re getting dramatic speed uptakes. If you look at the two fastest networks in the United States right now, they’re both ours…That’s what’s driving the business. That’ll drive innovation, that’ll drive opportunity.”

As AT&T upgrades its cell sites to deploy Band 14 [1] for FirstNet, crews are upgrading other equipment to support the 5G New Radio specification. Stephens said the operator is working toward “national coverage of 5G” by the “middle of the next year.”

Note 1. Band 14 is the spectrum licensed to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to create a nationwide public-safety wireless broadband network. Band 14represents 20 MHz of highly desirable spectrum in the 700 MHz band that provides good propagation in urban and rural areas and decent penetration into buildings.


This week, AT&T announced it would resell Mutualink to enhance interoperable communications for public safety. This new relationship will allow AT&T to bring Mutualink’s Interoperable Response and Preparedness Platform (IRAPP) to first responders and supporting agencies using services provided over FirstNet public safety communications platform. 

Mutualink states on their website:  “This network is the largest nationwide network of public safety agencies, critical infrastructure, schools and private enterprise security. The IRAPP is transport agnostic, device agnostic and media agnostic. It leverages your current communications assets and incorporates new devices as needed. Connect to the IRAPP network via public or private LTE, satellite or terrestrial broadband.”

“FirstNet brings public safety one, nationwide platform for consistent, reliable communications across agencies and jurisdictions,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “As apps and mobile data increasingly become critical components of the public safety response, we want to help make sure the flow of information that FirstNet provides remains seamless. Our agreement with Mutualink aims to do just that, taking the interoperability that FirstNet provides to the next level.”

FirstNet already facilitates multi-agency communications to aid in incident response and resolution. The agreement with Mutualink builds upon this, expanding the reach, reliability and capability of FirstNet services today. FirstNet subscribers can use the Mutualink IRAPP solution to enhance their ability to easily and quickly communicate across systems and applications, sharing voice, data, video and more in a highly secure environment.

By bringing the Mutualink solution to the FirstNet platform, first responders using Mutualink’s IRAPP will be able to simultaneously take advantage of key FirstNet capabilities – like First Priority™, which enables priority and, for first responders, preemption.

“Adding Mutualink’s Interoperable Response and Preparedness Platform to the FirstNet communications platform will increase the level of interoperability for public safety, especially with respect to on-demand cross-agency interoperability. Our solution enables highly secure sharing of video and data across systems and integration with smart sensor and IoT systems,” Mark Hatten, chief executive officer and chairman, Mutualink. “This will help FirstNet subscribers scale up their access to emerging information as the situation unfolds, creating a common operating picture for all involved.”


“FirstNet is helping first responders solve long-standing interoperability challenges and arming them with the information they need to coordinate action plans and make critical decisions. We’re pleased to see AT&T form innovative collaborations that will help foster a new era of situational awareness for public safety,” said FirstNet Authority Acting CEO Edward Parkinson.




5 thoughts on “AT&T FirstNet Makes Great Progress; Deal with Mutualink increases Inter-operability

  1. FirstNet it’s probably AT&T greatest accomplishment in the last decade. IMHO it is much more valuable than all of their debt funded acquisitions like DirecTV and Time Warner. And unlike the so-called “5G” fake deployments FirstNet is real and of great value to First Responders.

    1. Agree!

      Separately: AT&T floats proposal for new category of CBRS devices

      AT&T wants to create a higher-powered Category C for devices that use the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band. A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing explains that the carrier met with agency officials to discuss getting approval for CBRS small cells that would provide more use cases involving 5G in the mid-band spectrum.

      The FCC currently has two categories for CBSDs (CBRS small cells): Category A refers to a lower power base station and Category B refers to a CBSD that must be deployed outdoors and has higher maximum power limits compared with Category A devices.

      Details: AT&T proposes the addition of a third category of CBSD with maximum allowable Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP) up to 62 dBm/10 MHz. EIRP refers to the total RF power radiated by the antenna. For Cat A devices, it’s 30 dBm/10 MHz and for Cat B CBRS devices, it’s 47 dBm/10 MHz

      Under certain conditions, as determined by the Spectrum Access Controller (SAS), Cat C devices could take advantage of mid-band propagation characteristics, but AT&T said its proposal would continue to protect incumbents and not impact current SAS certifications.

      The proposal comes as the CBRS industry prepares for initial commercial deployments in the General Authorized Access (GAA) portion of the band. The Priority Access License (PAL) portion of the band involves the auctioning of licenses and that’s not expected to happen until next year.

  2. AT&T sets FirstNet as a priority:

    AT&T’s 5G network build-out ranks third on the list of the telecom’s priorities behind completion of its FirstNet public-safety and advanced LTE networks, president of operations Scott Mair told an analyst conference. He also said AT&T will use its trove of sub-6 GHz wireless spectrum — much of it in the 700 MHz range — to complement the high-band millimeter-wave frequencies that will transmit 5G service in dense urban markets.

    AT&T nationwide 5G plans include a multi-pronged strategy. Those plans include leveraging millimeter wave spectrum for dense urban areas. AT&T calls this their 5G+ coverage, which will provide the fastest mobile broadband experience.

    This service will be delivered primarily through small cells using a centralized radio access network (CRAN) architecture. CRAN allows multiple (maybe hundreds of) small cells to be controlled from a single centralized hub. AT&T 5G+ is currently available in select locations in 19 cities. It can offer gigabit capable speeds, notes Mair.

    “I really like the momentum I’m seeing right now from our build in terms of the CRAN or small cell capabilities,” said Mair in his remarks. “That millimeter wave, basically 200, 300 plus meters radius, so there’s a lot more of those small cells that you need to put in place to provide that capability.”

    For broader, more macro coverage, AT&T will use their sub-6 GHz spectrum holdings, with 700 MHz a likely 5G workhorse. This capability will be put on existing AT&T towers, with their FirstNet build helping facilitate the transition to 5G.

  3. FirstNet is Quickly Expanding Across the U.S. to Assist in Emergency Response

    Emergency situations demand quick response times. Unfortunately, breakdowns in communication have made that difficult. From wildfires and collapsing buildings to Category 5 hurricanes and medical emergencies, communication is key. Other times, during a crisis or emergency, networks can be clogged by consumers, making it difficult for the essential first responders to even respond or coordinate. Currently, that’s just not acceptable. However, FirstNet, or the First Responder Network Authority changes all of that. According to FirstNet, “It’s hard, and at times impossible, for emergency responders from different jurisdictions or from different public safety organizations to communicate and work together to save lives. That’s where the FirstNet network will come in. FirstNet will help solve the communications challenges that our nation’s public safety personnel have faced in responding to local emergencies, as well as large-scale emergencies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.”

    The new network will now give first responders priority in emergency situations to send voice or text messages, images, video and location information in real-time. It’s considerably better than traditional PTT, or push to talk over radio because it’s now on a cellular network operated by carriers such as AT&T rather than a radio network. With such new technology coming onstream, all first responders over time will have to upgrade to cellular based solutions versus traditional two-way radios that are proven to be ineffective. That’s opening a wide range of opportunity for companies including Siyata Mobile Inc. (TSX-V:SIM)(OTC:SYATF), Sierra Wireless Inc. (NASDAQ:SWIR), Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE:MSI), Sonim Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ:SONM), and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).

  4. FirstNet Public Safety Network, First-of-Kind Devices Meet Critical First-Responder Needs

    To meet the vital communication needs of first responders, Siyata Mobile Inc. leveraged its strong commercial experience in mission-critical communications systems and launched its FirstNet Ready Uniden® UV350, the first-to-market, in-vehicle device of its kind. FirstNet is being built in a public-private partnership with AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and the First Responder Network Authority, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. FirstNet is continuously expanding coverage, capacity and capability of the platform while first responders currently on the system receive fast, reliable broadband connectivity that consistently outperforms other networks. Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE: MSI) recently bought Kodiak Solutions, a Push-To-Talk software that is FirstNet enabled. Also in recent news, Sierra Wireless Inc. (NASDAQ: SWIR) introduced its AirLink MG90 High-Performance Multi-Network Vehicle Router now certified and approved for use on FirstNet, and in April Sonim Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: SONM) released the Sonim XP3, a rugged handset on the FirstNet communications platform.

    Historically, first responders have struggled to communicate between various departments in emergencies.
    Public-private partnership established to develop and operate a dedicated public safety cellular network.
    Savvy tech companies deliver crucially important devices that are FirstNet Ready.

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