FirstNet 101

FirstNet is envisioned to be a single, nationwide network to create an interoperable communication broadband service for the exclusive use of public safety organizations.  The network is intended to improve communication among and within local, state, regional, tribal and federal first responders.

FirstNet’s vision is a network with public safety-grade quality of service and local control of prioritization.

Per the establishing statute, FirstNet will be built using 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE), the most prolific and widely-used wireless broadband technology operating today.

The overarching goal of FirstNet is to transform and modernize public safety communications. Intended benefits of FirstNet include:

  • Enable secured access to advanced applications available only via high-speed mobile broadband networks
  • Increase situational awareness via actionable data and innovative applications, improving coordinated response to incidents and disasters
  • Provide service to first responders, even when commercial LTE networks are most likely down or congested
  • Increase efficiencies for law enforcement through better and real-time information exchange

SOURCE: “10 WAYS FirstNet Will Help Public Safety Save Lives and Secure Communities,”, October 2016:

Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN)

The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is envisioned to be a secured, high performance wireless broadband service dedicated to public safety first responders across all states, territories and tribal lands.


The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is the entity created by Congress to govern, construct and manage the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).   FirstNet was established in Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief Act (Act), signed into law on February 22, 2012. The Act established the spectrum, funding, policy, technology and business aspects for deployment of the NPSBN.

Overseen by a 15-member Board of Directors with backgrounds in public safety, government and the wireless industry, FirstNet is an authority operating within the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is a growing and substantial organization of dedicated professionals led by a team of executives operating in a corporate-like structure. For more information see:

Dedicated Public Safety Broadband Spectrum

In the Act, Congress allocated 20 MHz of spectrum for the NPSBN. The NPSBN may be customized to meet the diverse and demanding requirements of first responders, many of which are conflict with consumer cellular business and operations.

The proper technical term for the portion of the spectrum to be used by FirstNet is “Band Class 14” (BC14), which is a global term established by the 3GPP standard.


FirstNet LTE

FirstNet Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the term used to describe the underlying “4G” wireless broadband technology upon which FirstNet service will be based. LTE is based upon a global standard which has seen unprecedented penetration in wireless networks worldwide. This healthy global “ecosystem” provides ongoing improvements and dramatic economies of scale.