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Annual Report to Congress Demonstrates How FirstNet is “Rising to the Challenge”

March 1, 2021

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) is proud to release its Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, highlighting the FirstNet Authority’s operations, activities, financial condition, and accomplishments over the past fiscal year. The report recaps a year of continued progress under the theme of “Rising to the Challenge” as we emphasize how FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network, has supported first responders during a year of historic challenges.

FirstNet in Action

FirstNet is helping our nation’s first responders save lives by keeping communities connected and protected in profound and routine ways. This year’s report highlights various examples of FirstNet in Action, including how the network has adapted to the changing needs of first responders during the pandemic. From equipping Navy hospital ships with service to enabling emergency call centers to work from home, FirstNet is supporting those on the frontlines of our fight against the coronavirus. These use cases also demonstrate the ways that FirstNet has continued to innovate to better serve the needs of first responders in disaster response and their daily routines.

FirstNet Authority Accomplishments

Throughout FY 2020, the FirstNet Authority made significant progress in fulfilling its mission and driving the future of public safety broadband communications:

Oversight of the FirstNet Contract. The FirstNet Authority provided rigorous oversight of our network contractor, AT&T, as we saw major advancements in the deployment and adoption of the FirstNet network. At the start of FY 2020, there were approximately 9,000 public safety agencies and 750,000 device connections on the network. By the end of FY 2020, there were more than 13,000 public safety agencies and 1.5 million device connections on the network. Additionally, at the end of FY 2020, Band 14 had launched in 700 markets across the country, with 80 percent of nationwide coverage met. The FirstNet Authority verifies and validates AT&T’s progress on the network buildout, including the achievement of rural milestones, which was ahead of schedule in FY 2020. The FirstNet ecosystem of devices and applications (apps) also continued to flourish with more than 200 devices approved and certified for use on the FirstNet network along with more than 150 apps included in the FirstNet App Catalog by September 2020.

FirstNet Roadmap. In August 2019, we released the FirstNet Authority Roadmap (Roadmap) to document the top priorities for advancing the network. The Roadmap, developed with public safety, industry, government, and AT&T input, outlines public safety’s operational needs and technology trends for mobile broadband communications over the next five years. The Roadmap is structured around six domains, representing network capabilities that are vital to public safety operations. During FY 2020, the FirstNet Authority conducted nearly 1,300 engagements with first responders and hundreds of discussions with industry to inform the development of an updated Roadmap, released in October 2020.

FirstNet Investment Strategy. In June 2020, the FirstNet Authority Board approved the first investments back into the network. Valued at over $200 million, these investments will expand the fleet of deployable network assets (such as satellite cell on light trucks and other movable assets) available to users to boost coverage and capacity, as well as fund the first phase of a multi-year project to enable 5G services for FirstNet subscribers. The approval of these first investments followed the development of a strategic process to drive the disciplined investment of the FirstNet Authority’s resources.

Nationwide Public Safety Engagement. In 2020, the FirstNet Authority conducted over 1,300 engagements with public safety agencies. Even during lockdowns and travel restrictions, the FirstNet Authority team found new ways to engage with first responders to continue this critical work. These engagements continued to raise awareness of the FirstNet program and helped us gain valuable feedback on first responders’ needs for the network, which was then used to refine the network and associated services and capabilities.

Advancing Public Safety’s Network

Our work with first responders and the feedback we receive on the FirstNet network is invaluable. It helps FirstNet grow in a manner that best reflects public safety’s specific communication needs, and this engagement will continue to be the foundation of our work.

Through continued consultation with public safety and other stakeholders, our public-private partnership with AT&T, and the Roadmap, we have the tools to transform the future of public safety communications. We look forward to continuing to advance FirstNet for America’s first responders in FY 2021 and beyond.

Read the FirstNet Authority’s FY 2020 Annual Report to Congress here

Learn more about how FirstNet is transforming public safety communications — contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our discipline newsletters. Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn for the latest FirstNet Authority updates.

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