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updated: 3/31/2017 10:02 AM

AT&T, government partner on new nationwide emergency network

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  • AT&T, the U.S. Department of Commerce and others will help build a more unified nationwide network for first-responders.

    AT&T, the U.S. Department of Commerce and others will help build a more unified nationwide network for first-responders.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

 
 

A new nationwide wireless broadband network, costing about $46.5 billion, is expected to help first responders better coordinate help during emergencies.

AT&T, the U.S. Department of Commerce and First Responder Network Authority said they will work together to build the communications infrastructure and maintain it for 25 years. Motorola Solutions, with operations in Schaumburg, is also a partner in the network. The plans for the build out are expected to be provided to governors of each state, including Illinois, in the next six months.

The deal includes 20 megahertz of telecommunications spectrum provided and maintained by First Responder Network, also known as FirstNet. It cost about $6.5 billion, which was from funding raised from previous Federal Communications Commission spectrum sales. AT&T will invest about $40 billion in the infrastructure across 50 states and six territories, said First Responder Network CEO Mike Poth.

"In a time of crisis, this network will provide a spectrum to public safety that will take priority," Poth said.

Emergency responders have long sought a unified and more powerful network that would withstand a heavy communication load between law enforcement, fire and medical services when handling emergencies and disasters. Current systems often get overloaded and sometimes become inaccessible, which could hamper how the teams work together during an emergency.

Once plans have been provided to the states, the build-out could start the following year, Poth said.

Emergency responders currently pay a fee to subscribe to wireless telecommunications systems and they will continue to do so with the new network, Poth said.