AT&T - FirstNet announced last week that the "core" of the dedicated 4G wireless FirstNet network is live and ready for local agencies to begin the work of connecting to it.

FirstNet is the country’s first nationwide public safety communications platform dedicated to first responders in times of need. Built with AT&T, in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority, FirstNet is bringing public safety a much-needed technology upgrade.

“The launch of the network core comes a year into the FirstNet public-private partnership. It’s been a non-stop 12 months. And we’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule,” said Chris Sambar, senior VP, AT&T – FirstNet. “But bringing the FirstNet network core to life is one of the most exciting milestones yet.”

The launch of the FirstNet evolved packet core is a major breakthrough for public safety, FirstNet says. Built on physically separate hardware, it gives first responders their own separate, nationwide broadband network.

“This is what public safety has spent years advocating for,” said Scott Edson, executive director, Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communication System (LA-RICS). “We knew giving first responders a network that they could truly call their own was possible from our work on LA-RICS – 1 of 5 FirstNet early builder projects. But to see public safety’s network core roar to life nationwide, well, there are no words for how meaningful that is. We at LA-RICS look forward to connecting our sites to the FirstNet network core.”

The evolved packet core operates like the brain and nervous system of FirstNet. The core:

* Creates and controls the FirstNet experience, which is only available to FirstNet subscribers.

* Processes and carries public safety’s vital information.

* Unlocks critical capabilities, like First Priority, to help law enforcement, EMS and fire respond to unfolding incidents.

* Forms the basis for the unified, interoperable and nationwide communications system that public safety envisioned.

Built from the ground up, the FirstNet evolved packet core is designed to meet the needs of first responders. It was designed on the objectives and standards provided by the First Responder Network Authority based on years of consultation with public safety.

 “Outdated communications capabilities are a threat to public safety. We’ve seen it repeatedly when disasters strike – from September 11, the Boston Marathon and Parkland,” said Ed Davis, former Boston police commissioner. “We’ve been advocating for the future of communications to bring us a modern solution that will empower us with next generation tools. And with FirstNet, that future is here, giving us an experience we can’t get on any commercial network.

“Those on the front lines can now evolve the way we communicate, using mission-critical text and data on top of voice to ensure we are connected to as much information as possible to achieve our missions. Because the more connected we can be, the more protected we can be.”

AT&T – FirstNet has  been working on the FirstNet evolved packet core since early 2017, putting hundreds of millions of dollars behind it. 

And while all networks have a core, this is the first-ever evolved packet core dedicated entirely to public safety. Only FirstNet traffic will move through the core.

To do this, AT&T - FirstNet says it built the FirstNet evolved packet core on physically separate hardware, which will effectively separate public safety’s traffic from commercial traffic. It’s like having a super highway that only public safety can use, FirstNet says. Other highways at times have lanes filled bumper to bumper with consumer, commercial and public safety users.

To keep all traffic on the FirstNet evolved packet core protected, it is designed with a defense-in-depth approach that helps maintain security at every level. It also will be monitored 24/7 365 days per year by a dedicated Security Operations Center with a dedicated team of experts.

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