Frequently Asked Questions

FirstNet FAQ

What is the First Responder Network Authority?

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is an independent organization within the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Signed into law in 2012, the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act created FirstNet. The law gives FirstNet the mission to build, operate and maintain the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet will provide a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications.

This broadband network will fulfill a fundamental need of the public safety community, giving public safety 21st century communication tools to help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safe. To do that, FirstNet will build a new Band Class 14 network designed to be reliable, functional, safe and secure, and provide optimal levels of operational capability at all times. For the first time, public safety communications will be based on commercial standards. This will bring the benefits of lower costs, consumer-driven economies of scale and rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities.

What is the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN)?

Mandated through Federal legislation, the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is an interoperable nationwide high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety.

Today, in emergencies and at large events, heavy public use can lead to wireless communications networks becoming overloaded and inaccessible. In those instances, public safety users are treated the same as any other commercial or enterprise user, and communications can be limited due to congestion and capacity issues.

With the FirstNet Network, public safety will get a dedicated “fast lane” that provides highly secure communications every day and for every emergency. The National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is a cellular data network that uses the same technology as commercial carriers but operates in a spectrum dedicated to public safety. This will ensure first responders have access to critical data and applications, especially during catastrophic events or when commercial carriers are congested and least reliable.

Who will be allowed to access the network?

The FirstNet network is being built for public safety. The purpose of the network is to provide broadband wireless communications to police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other public safety and support personnel to meet their important mission every day. The First Responder Network Authority has broken users into three categories: primary users, extended primary, and primary subscriber paid users.

Primary Users are those Public Safety Entities that act as first responders, i.e., those entities whose primary mission and job function is to provide services to the public in the area of law enforcement, fire protection, or emergency medical services.

Extended Primary Users are those Public Safety Entities (which may be individuals, agencies, organizations, non-profit or for-profit companies) that are not Primary Users, but who may be called upon to support Primary Users with the mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean up, restoration, or provision of other services that are required during the time of an emergency or its aftermath.

Primary subscriber paid users are individuals identified as a primary user who wish to procure services on a personal bill. An example of this would be a volunteer firefighter who chooses to purchase their own device, using it for both personal activities and emergency work. Under the subscriber-paid model, a public-safety agency identifies the personnel who should have access to the FirstNet system, and each potential end user is given an activation code that can be used to subscribe to FirstNet online or at an AT&T retail store.



Who will build the network and when will it be available?

FirstNet is charged with overseeing the construction of the network. FirstNet possesses the license to the 20 MHz of radio spectrum that has been dedicated to the network, and FirstNet owns the network core. The radio access network (RAN) portion of the network – consisting of all of the communication sites (e.g., towers) and the radio and data transportation components associated with them – will be built by FirstNet. All 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. have “opted in” to FirstNet, meaning each has accepted its individual State Plan detailing how the network will be deployed in their state/territory. FirstNet has until 2022 to build out the network.

Will the NPSBN replace my public safety land mobile radio (LMR) system?

While there will be voice communication capability with the NPSBN when it is introduced, it will not be public safety communications “mission critical” quality. Mission-critical communications include capabilities such as point to multi-point communication, and device-to-device direct communication when not connected to a network. These capabilities are not yet part of the selected long-term evolution (LTE) technology platform. It is not anticipated that the network will have mission-critical communications capabilities for the foreseeable future, so existing public safety LMR systems must continue to be maintained. The NPSBN will supplement LMR communications for access to mission-critical data.

What is Long-Term Evolution (LTE)?

Long-Term Evolution (LTE), a 3GPP standard technology, is the technology selected for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). This is the same broadband cellular technology used by the major carriers. The law that established FirstNet specified that the network shall be based on the minimum technical requirements on the commercial standards for LTE (Long Term Evolution) service. LTE is the evolution of a proven technology, which is now in its fourth generation. With each generation comes improvement in speed and functionality.

Will I be required to use the network?

No. While there is no mandate requiring you to use the network, Governor Ivey has opted in and supports the initiative.

How much is the subscription cost?

The State of Alabama contract is available online. Click the following links for FirstNet/AT&T devices:

FirstNet Equipment Catalog

For FirstNet/ATT&T Plan Pricing:

Primary and Extended Plans


Does the Alabama FirstNet State Contract include Push-to-talk (PTT)?

The Alabama State T303 Contract for FirstNet services does not include PTT.  In 2014, legislative code 41-16-27 was enacted allowing for a multiple award cellular contract and requiring PTT to be awarded on a separate competitively bid contract.

Southern Linc Wireless was awarded the T129 Contract as the cellular provider for PTT services for the State of Alabama.  Thus, State agencies are only allowed to procure cellular PTT services on the T129 contract, currently held by Southern Linc. 

Municipalities, County Government, and Universities are not restricted from entering into a separate contract of their own which adheres to their local procurement laws in order to purchase FirstNet PTT services.


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