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US cops, firefighters to get new emergency wireless network – AT&T to get $6.5bn

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Joan Zappulla
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Telco lands mega-deal to host first responders' broadband

The FirstNet system will be a nationwide network that will allow police, firefighters and paramedics to transmit data and communications across multiple regions and jurisdictions without worrying about the transmissions being lost to overcrowded networks, particularly during disasters.

The network, running in a 20MHz band in the D-Block spectrum space, will initially operate as a private LTE (Long-Term Evolution) system that includes wireless data and radio access network (RAN) voice transmissions.

The FirstNet system will cover all 50 US states as well as tribal lands and will be open to both state and federal agencies, with links to local networks and the 911 system.

In exchange for the $6.5bn contract, AT will operate the network for 25 years, providing its own existing hardware backbone to support the network.

The idea was first raised by the 9/11 Commission Report, which noted that heavy traffic on the commercial wireless networks can prevent first responders from effectively communicating in the wake of a natural disaster or serious attack.

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