Under the FirstNet RFP, bidders were required to submit sustainability payments totaling at least $5.625 billion over the 25 years. When AT&T was announced as FirstNet nationwide contractor in March 2017, officials disclosed that AT&T would pay $18 billion in sustainability payments to FirstNet, but the payment structure was not revealed.

AT&T’s 10-K filing states that the company will pay FirstNet the following amounts:

  • $240 million for 2018,
  • $120 million for 2019,
  • $120 million for 2020,
  • $120 million for 2021,
  • $195 million for 2022, and
  • $17.205 billion during the remaining years of the contract.

This represents the only source of revenue for FirstNet, once the initial $7 billion allocated by Congress to FirstNet is spent. Although FirstNet officials have been outspoken in their commitment to serve as advocates for first responders, AT&T will handle the financial relationships with public-safety entities and collect subscription fees.

Under the law that established FirstNet, FirstNet must be a self-sustaining entity. Beyond funding its organizational operations, FirstNet must “reinvest amounts received from the assessment of fees [the payments from AT&T] … in the nationwide interoperable broadband network by using such funds only for constructing, maintaining, operating or improving the network.”

In the 10-K filing, AT&T reiterated its promise to invest about $40 billion into the FirstNet system “over the life of the 25-year contract to build, operate and maintain the network.”