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AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) this week announced the next phase of public safety communication investments totaling more than $8 billion over 10 years. 

FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce, plans to invest $6.3 billion through its network contract with AT&T and anticipates an additional $2 billion for ongoing investments in coverage enhancements for public safety, which is currently under discussion by the parties. 

This next phase will create a 5G standalone (SA) core and support the transition of public safety’s Band 14 spectrum from LTE to 5G. It will also expand mission-critical services – such as voice, video, data and location – and prepare the network to evolve beyond 5G.  

The build will include thousands of new FirstNet cell sites across the country, including 1,000 new sites within the next two years. 

Starting in March, FirstNet will be the first and only wireless network to provide America’s first responders with always-on priority and preemption across 5G, expanding to include all AT&T 5G commercial spectrum, the Feb. 13 announcement said. 

As public safety’s partner, AT&T has grown FirstNet to cover more first responders than any network nationwide, FirstNet said. With over 5.5 million connections and about 27,500 public safety agencies and organizations on FirstNet, first responders can reliably communicate with one another during everyday operations, big events and emergencies in the field. 

“We are dedicated to the future of public safety communications, and that starts with expanding and evolving FirstNet to meet first responders’ needs,” said FirstNet Authority Executive Director and CEO Joe Wassel. 

“With this investment, we are ensuring FirstNet remains at the forefront of technology so that public safety can respond smarter, safer, and more effectively,” Wassel said. “I look forward to our continued partnership with the public safety community and AT&T to deliver the most reliable, innovative communications network for public safety.”