Interesting Link Between AT&T, the FBI, the Us Army, and the DOJ


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AT&T snags a $92 million contract to provide FirstNet services for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

According to AT&T FirstNet Program VP Stacy Schwartz, the five-year deal is an all-new business for the company and is the largest commitment of a public safety agency or law enforcement to date.

“We’re extremely proud to be supporting a preeminent law enforcement agency like the FBI. We take a great deal of pride in working with them,” the VP told FierceWireless, adding that the latest deal is a big accomplishment for FirstNet and AT&T.

The agency is notably switching from its current provider, Verizon, which rivals AT&T. Verizon has been dominating the public safety sector until late. However, AT&T has been slowly penetrating the market since securing a contract for FirstNet, a wireless communications platform for the first responders and public safety sector.

The deal included adding Band 14 spectrum and LTE core, which is currently upgrading to 5G.

FBI’s local offices would use FirstNet to connect and communicate nationwide for day-to-day and emergency operations. The agency has 56 field offices and about 380 resident agencies in small cities and towns. It plans to use FirstNet-ready devices such as smartphones, modems, and air cards.

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Schwartz said that the FBI already has some users on FirstNet, and the provider has already previously supported the agency in special events with critical emphasis on public safety.

Other Department of Justice agencies could likewise access the contract, allowing the option to use FirstNet services. Such agencies include the Antitrust Division, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Justice Management Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), etc.

ATF was the first federal agency to use the communications company in 2018 with around 4,800 users. Late September this year, FirstNett recorded at least 14,000 public safety agencies and organizations subscribed, with 1.7 million FirstNet connections.

In October, the US Army also subscribed with roughly 3,200 lines and at least 3,000 capable devices.

“From a FirstNet perspective, we really take a look at how, and where, and who is adopting FirstNet because it’s important for local law enforcement to understand that the FBI is using FirstNet, it’s important for other DoJ agencies,” said Schwartz.

Law enforcement agencies within the DoJ could use FirstNet apps like push-to-talk (PTT), making the users perform the same function to communicate within the team.

On the other hand, Verizon started to offer push-to-talk service, including Mission Critical PTT, in October, as the 3GPP specs enabled.

As more agencies subscribe to FirstNet, interdepartmental communications become easier.

“There is a great deal of collaboration and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, not just at the federal jurisdiction, but also at the federal, state, local, and tribal,” said Schwartz.

“Having more users on the FirstNet platform that allows for collaboration and interoperability is really in effect helping realize the vision of what FirstNet should be.”

Leveraging FirstNet, preemption is a crucial capability that the service provider can deliver across the network. Schwartz then cited the 2013 Boston Marathon terror where there was a need for the preemption capability.

In an event like the Boston Marathon bombing, preemption ensures the FBI’s traffic and other FirstNet users to get ahead of average citizen users so that the law enforcement agencies could communicate in real-time.

FirstNet encrypts all traffic, ensuring all communications to be secured. AT&T executives also assured the carrier’s independent testing showed that FirstNet is significantly faster than AT&T’s core network and other commercial networks due to the dedicated spectrum and platform.

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