Virginia on Monday evening became the first state to opt in to FirstNet and AT&T’s public safety network build plan, marking yet another major milestone for the project.
The announcement from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is the culmination of nearly four years of collaboration and more than 90 meetings between FirstNet and Virginia officials and first responders to develop a plan that meets the state’s unique maritime and rural coverage needs and requirements for coordination with military and federal government users.
“I am proud that Virginia is the first state in the nation to opt in to this program that will help our first responders communicate during times of emergency,” McAuliffe commented. “While this is only the beginning of the process, I look forward to the continued coordinated efforts among Virginia, FirstNet, and AT&T to provide public safety officials with innovative new technologies that will help them keep Virginians safe.”
AT&T said Virginia’s first responder subscribers will receive immediate access to its existing LTE network, with preemption for primary users expected by the end of this year.
FirstNet and AT&T said the subsequent build will help expand network coverage for first responders in rural areas of the state, including Southwest Virginia, Southside Virginia, and the Eastern Shore, and will provide secure communication lines for emergency and disaster responses and large event support.
AT&T’s SVP of FirstNet Chris Sambar previously indicated the carrier will use a range of infrastructure tools to expand coverage in rural and remote areas, including the carrier’s cell-on-light-truck (COLT), cell-on-wheels (COW), cell-on-wings (flying COW), backpack systems, and in-vehicle cell solutions. DAS systems will also be required for in-building coverage in police and fire headquarters buildings in some states, he added.
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth reported Virginia’s participation will also bring modern technologies to first responders there, including smartphones and apps. Additionally, AT&T and FirstNet indicated the decision will help drive infrastructure investment and job creation in the state.
Virginia’s decision to accept AT&T and FirstNet’s build plan comes about a month after the pair handed the final network plans to the states for their review. It also comes amid continued pressure from Rivada Networks, which is aiming to woo states with its own network construction option. More on Rivada’s progress here.
But FirstNet is forging ahead. A week after its June kickoff meeting with the states, 49 of the 56 states and territories eligible for the build had requested follow up meetings with FirstNet and AT&T. At the time, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said FirstNet was “very confident” the “vast majority” would opt-in.
Filed Under: Infrastructure