FirstNet and the Benefits of Alternatives

Competition is healthy and good, especially for mobile networks for first responders.

Imagine a patient is in an ambulance racing to the hospital; the IoT medical device is communicating critical patient data to the hospital team. When the patient arrives, a team has been assembled and is ready to begin treatment.

In comes FirstNet, a government program to establish, operate, and maintain an interoperable public safety broadband network. FirstNet is a much-needed infrastructure improvement that will enhance our communities’ ability to coordinate emergency services during a crisis. It gives our first responders a secure, non-commercial network.

On March 28, 2017, the FirstNet contract was awarded to AT&T.  So, when FirstNet announced several months later that all 50 states, two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. joined their program, entities like our small, rural fire department wondered…

  • Would they have to change networks to be part of FirstNet?

  • What if another carrier’s coverage was stronger in their geographic location?

  • What if they have a good contract with another carrier that they want to keep?


However, Verizon recently announced their new public safety network that directly competes with FirstNet, which is good for first responders because it ensures competitive pricing and increased innovation for offers that complement the network. For example, the creation of new applications for first responders.

Luckily for our rural fire station, now they don’t have to switch carriers because:

  • When states and territories signed up for FirstNet, it did not obligate the agencies within their borders to purchase FirstNet and;

  • Those customers now have Verizon’s private core network for public safety as an option.


It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this new area in telecom. Agencies like the small, rural fire department will be watching closely.