The FirstNet Authority Board has voted to use network reinvestment funds to expand coverage indoors, in a move that will allow its network partner, AT&T, to offer an indoor coverage extension service to FirstNet customers.
FirstNet said that the approved network reinvestment is intended to “increase FirstNet coverage where public safety agencies operate indoors, such as police headquarters, fire stations, emergency communication centers, and other critical sites and field locations.” The agency described the indoor-coverage enhancing service as a small-cell-based “RAN extension” that will be available to first responder agencies which subscribe to FirstNet services.
The First Responders Network Authority will be receiving about $ 18 billion in payments from AT&T over the 25-year term of its contract to build out and operate the nationwide FirstNet network for public safety. An estimated $ 16 billion of that is expected to be reinvested in the network, as is required under the law which established FirstNet. The FirstNet Authority established a roadmap in 2019 which laid out the priorities for guiding that reinvestment — including indoor coverage.
“Public safety is at the center of our investment process – the FirstNet Authority is laser focused on making sure the network continues to provide the communications they need for their mission,” said FirstNet Authority Board Chair Steve Benjamin in a statement. “Through our dialogue with public safety, they point to in-building coverage as a top priority for FirstNet. With this investment, we will enhance indoor coverage, provide an additional layer of network resilience, and give public safety the ability to deploy this service where and when they need it the most. “
“The FirstNet Authority has a strong partnership with public safety so we can make investments that advance the network to benefit their operations,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Ed Parkinson in a statement. “In-building coverage routinely tops the list of their desired improvements for FirstNet, so we are thrilled to be investing in a service that will help public safety deploy more localized and focused coverage solutions.”
Parkinson is leaving FirstNet as of May 10 for work in the private sector, and Deputy CEO Lisa Casias will step into the position of acting CEO. FirstNet will conduct a search to select its next CEO.