Public Safety
Wireless Broadband

FAQs & Facts


  1. Why not just use existing commercial LTE coverage?

    Commercial LTE networks are market-driven, built based upon profit models.  Public safety use of LTE must rely upon a different model; one that values priority access, places an emphasis on group communication, provides coverage in rural and underserved areas, and builds reliability, resiliency and security into the network and user devices. 

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  2. What does the term “FirstNet” refer to and what is FirstNet?

    “FirstNet” is the name given to The First Responder Network Authority.  FirstNet, the Authority, is charged with building and operating the first high-speed wireless, broadband data network dedicated to public safety.  This network is named the “Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network” (NPSBN).  However, the term “FirstNet” has come to be used by many to refer to both the Authority and the Network.

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  4. What is the purpose of the FirstNet Network?

    The FirstNet Network will be a single, nationwide network that facilitates communication for public safety users during emergencies and on the job every day.  Think of FirstNet as a bigger, more reliable, secure and resilient “wireless pipe.”  This new network will be public safety-grade, providing access to applications and coverage where public safety needs it most.

    FirstNet is being designed to improve communication among local, state, regional, tribal and national emergency services personnel. The broadband data network will help save lives and protect the health and safety of all Americans. FirstNet fulfills a fundamental need of the public safety community for a single, mission-critical communications system enabling force multiplier effectiveness.

    FirstNet exists to serve first responders and the public safety community with dedicated, highly reliable, nationwide wireless data services, applications and user devices, at the lowest possible costs.

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  6. What role does the First Responder Network Authority play?

    The "Spectrum Act" legislation created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is charged with establishing a nationwide public safety broadband network based on a single, national network architecture. FirstNet has the authority to take all actions necessary to ensure the design, construction, deployment, and operations of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). FirstNet will consult with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities as part of their efforts.

    FirstNet is headed by a 15-member board comprised of representatives from public safety; local, state and federal government; and the wireless industry.  FirstNet will also establish network deployment phases that will include substantial rural coverage milestones for each phase of the network construction and deployment.  FirstNet will look at special considerations for areas or regions with unique homeland security or national security needs.  FirstNet will consult with a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in each state, designated by the Governor of that state.

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  7. What will be possible with FirstNet?

    FirstNet will be used to send data, video, images and text and make cellular-quality voice calls.  In the future, critical voice communications may also be supported.  Users will get fast access to information they need to meet their mission.  Unlike commercial wireless networks, FirstNet will allow for priority access among public safety users.  FirstNet will also give incident commanders and local officials control over the network so, for example, they can assign users and talk groups, determine who can access applications, and determine priority use during large emergencies.

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  8. Why was FirstNet created?

    After 9/11, the public safety community fought hard to fulfill the 9/11 Commission’s last standing recommendation and convince Congress that it needed a dedicated, reliable network to provide advanced data communications capabilities nationwide.  During emergencies, public safety requires priority service and preemption.

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  9. How will FirstNet benefit public safety?

    Using FirstNet will improve situational awareness and decision-making.  Just as Smartphones have changed our personal lives, FirstNet devices and applications will ultimately change the way public safety operates.  FirstNet will save time during emergencies when seconds count.  FirstNet will save money for states by leveraging nationwide purchasing power and scale economies.  Using FirstNet can help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safer.

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  10. How will states and agencies participate in the build-out of FirstNet?

    To make FirstNet a nationwide network, all states must have a local Radio Access Network (RAN) that connects to the FirstNet core.  FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated state Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments and first responders to gather requirements to develop a state-specific RAN deployment plan.  If the FirstNet plan is accepted by a state, FirstNet will construct the RAN.  If a state prefers to build its own RAN, the state must secure FCC and NTIA approval and may seek funding support from NTIA. In order to satisfy the nationwide goals, state-built RANs must meet FirstNet security, hardening and interoperability requirements and connect to the FirstNet core.

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  11. What will users pay for FirstNet services?

    FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and make FirstNet self-sustaining. The use of FirstNet services and applications will be voluntary. The costs for FirstNet services and devices have not yet been set.

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  12. What is the purpose of SCIPs?

    Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans (SCIPs) are locally-driven, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-disciplinary statewide plans to enhance emergency communications.  Our SCIP outlines and defines the current and future vision for communications interoperability within the municipalities, counties, local and tribal regions in the State of New York.  In addition, the NYS SCIP will align our emergency response agencies with the goals, objectives, and initiatives for achieving that vision.

    SCIPs are living documents that are updated on an annual basis, or as frequently as needed. The SCIP provides strategic direction and alignment for those responsible for interoperable communications at the State, regional, and local levels.

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  13. What are the duties and responsibilities of the FirstNet Authority?

    The First Responder Network Authority shall hold the single public safety wireless license granted and take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the NPSBN, in consultation with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities, the Director of NIST, the Commission, and the public safety advisory committee. These shall include:

    (A) ensuring nationwide standards for use and access of the network;

    (B) issuing open, transparent, and competitive requests for proposals to private sector entities for the purposes of building, operating, and maintaining the network;

    (C) encouraging that such requests leverage existing commercial wireless infrastructure to speed deployment of the network; and

    (D) managing and overseeing the implementation and execution of contracts or agreements with non-Federal entities to build, operate, and maintain the network.

    (the above text is paraphrased from 47 U.S. Code § 1426, the law creating FirstNet and authorizing the NPSBN)

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  14. Where can I find more information specific to FirstNet's Public Notices regarding proposed interpretations of parts of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 ('Public Notice')?

    After reviewing public input, FirstNet approved 62 final interpretations from the first two Public Notices in October 2015. Key interpretations include: (1) general acceptance of 3GPP standards definitions and operational architecture; (2) a collection of decisions that may discourage states from building their own network (i.e., “opt out”); (3) clear intent to select a single national prime contractor for the NPSBN; (4) clarification on fees that FirstNet may collect; (5) user device compatibility requirements (that promote interoperability and competition, benefit from technology advancement, etc.); and (6) a clear statement of FirstNet’s intent to leverage existing commercial providers and infrastructure. Important definitions include NPSBN non-public safety “secondary use,” and what qualifies as “rural” for coverage purposes. The complete set of interpretations can be viewed on the Federal Register.

    As of February 2016, interpretations of the Third Public Notice are still pending and, when finalized, will include key decisions regarding what qualifies a user or agency to use the NPSBN as well as priority and preemption conditions and their management.

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  15. Where can I find a list of the RFP’s Statement of Objectives (SOO)?

    View Statement of Objectives(SOO)

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  16. Who will be able to use the NPSBN?

    The Law that authorizes the NPSBN is specifically targeted for use by first responders. This clearly includes traditional law enforcement, fire, and EMS personnel. There are many more agencies and functions that support public safety and, therefore, seem likely candidates for NPSBN use. However, final determination of what qualifies a given user or entity for access to the NPSBN and how priority and preemption will be managed have not yet been made. These are questions of paramount interest to many, and rightly so. The Third Public Notice requested input on these very questions, however no final determination has been made by FirstNet (as of January 2017).  An answer to this question is expected once an award for the NPSBN has been announced (expected in the first half of 2017).

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  17. When will the NPSBN be available in New York?

    FirstNet has outlined a set of milestones based upon the date of the contract award.  As the result of a recent challenge to the procurement process, the award date has been delayed until March 1, 2017, at the earliest.  Once an award has been made, FirstNet and the selected bidder will develop the details of NY’s NPSBN State Plan for review and approval by the Governor.

    All indications are that one of the large commercial carriers will have a key role in the awarded contract and that the initial NPSBN roll-out will rely upon existing commercial infrastructure and have comparable coverage.  As the network is deployed, the NPSBN coverage footprint will extend beyond existing commercial limits.  Given this timeline and approach, it seems reasonable that the NPSBN may begin deployment in early 2018 with initial network loading as early as the second half of 2018. FirstNet has targeted nationwide project completion for five years after contract award.

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Quick Reference



These links are no longer relevant, but archived here for informational purposes.