AT&T Reps Highlight Benefits of FirstNet Offering

CHARLOTTE, N.C. –— AT&T, Inc., representatives, including former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, argued today that AT&T’s public safety broadband offering for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is far superior than any other option available to public safety agencies, and Mr. Davis suggested that police agencies will choose FirstNet because they “follow the law.”

Mr. Davis, an AT&T consultant, and Chad Tucker, a FirstNet consultant manager for AT&T, discussed AT&T’s offering during a keynote session this morning at the 2018 Connectivity Expo, which was organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association. AT&T’s FirstNet brand is featured prominently at the show here this week. It is a sponsor of the overall show, and the collocated North Carolina Public Safety Broadband Summit.

Mr. Davis stressed the benefits that the FirstNet system would have provided it if had been available after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, including offering priority and preemption for first responders when cellular networks were overloaded as well as broadband access and interoperability. He also said that the network will allow public safety agencies to take advantage of the innovation of a Fortune 500 company.  “There has never been a research and development arm of policing in the United States,” he added.

Mr. Tucker suggested that AT&T’s preemption is being done in a way that no one else is doing, even though Verizon Communications, Inc., also offers priority service and preemption for its public safety broadband offering that is competing with that of AT&T’s for FirstNet. Mr. Tucker also stressed that AT&T has a “dedicated core,” for public safety, “not a virtual core,” and “end-to-end encryption.”

And he noted that AT&T has a 25-year contract with FirstNet as well as coverage agreements with states. By contrast, he said, other providers can say they will offer a public safety service “but they can certainly change their mind down the road.”

“Quite frankly, I think that anybody that’s trying to fight against this is … waging a … war that can’t be won,” Mr. Davis suggested. “First of all, police follow the law. They will fall in line as to where the government tells them where to go, you know. And that’s exactly what’s happened with this contract. So the states have all signed onto it. Police departments are looking right now at the difference that … people are … offering. And the truth of the matter is, with the huge investment the government’s made on … this contract, you’d … be crazy to go with anybody else. And I think that that decision’s being made police department by police department, but logic dictates that that’s … going to be the solution.”

Although all states and territories and the District of Columbia have agreed to let AT&T construct their radio access networks (RANs) to connect to the nationwide FirstNet system, first responders are under no obligation to actually sign up for service.

“The views Ed shares on FirstNet are shaped by his experience and background in law enforcement,” an AT&T spokesperson told TR Daily today. “Serving as the Boston Police Commissioner during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Ed has seen firsthand how commercial networks can fail to meet the critical needs of public safety when crisis situations happen. So it’s not about following a mandate to purchase FirstNet services as there is no mandate. But it is about helping public safety understand their options and recognize that Congress created a purpose-built solution for them, brought to life by their challenges and their vision for something better – a solution first responders can count on to perform at its best when they’re facing the worst.”

A FirstNet spokesperson said, “We have always said that FirstNet has to earn public safety’s business.  We are proud of the rigorous RFP process that we led on behalf of public safety, as well as the advocacy, oversight and accountability we provide today – this truly is their Network.”

“There is no requirement for public safety agencies to choose AT&T because their state opted into FirstNet. They are free to choose the communications provider that best serves their needs,” a Verizon spokesman noted.  —-Paul Kirby,