AT&T Launches Evolved FirstNet Packet Core Network

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AT&T unveiled the core network for FirstNet yesterday. The timing coincides with the one-year anniversary of being awarded the contract from Congress for the public-private partnership to build and maintain the nationwide mobile broadband first responder network. “We’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule,” said AT&T SVP FirstNet Chris Sambar in the announcement.

The carrier has already given first responders early access to the FirstNet capabilities, Inside Towers reported. The launch of what AT&T is calling its evolved packet core is built on separate network hardware than the carrier’s other business and consumer network. The core, only available to FirstNet subscribers, processes and carries vital data for the public safety network. It was built to the standard provided by the First Responder Network Authority. AT&T says it put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into building the core network since early last year. 

To keep all data traffic on the core network separate and secure, it will be monitored 24/7/365 by network security experts working in a dedicated Security Operations Center. “Their sole focus is to watch over the security of the network, analyzing all traffic that crosses the network core to identify and help mitigate possible threats,” says AT&T. A custom portal enables the First Responder Network Authority to check in on the network.

AT&T will begin moving a few first responders from its commercial core to the new, dedicated FirstNet network core while it completes final testing. Once the controlled introduction wraps, more FirstNet customers will be moved – likely in April to May. For first responders, the move could be as simple as swapping out the commercial SIM card in their mobile device with a FirstNet SIM card.

Recently announced FirstNet-compatible devices include the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ and the Sonim XP8 and XP5s, which are coming soon. The mobile hotspot Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile router is compatible with the FirstNet SIM. First responders can use the router for in-vehicle mobile connectivity. The FirstNet SIM will also work with other devices after a firmware update.

March 28, 2018      

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