AT&T has been awarded the 25-year contract to build, maintain and operate FirstNet’s nationwide public-safety network (NPSBN), U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced today during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Ross applauded the FirstNet initiative, citing its benefits to public safety, the economy and the procurement approach taken to make the first-responder network a reality.

“It will spur private-sector innovation in telecom and public safety,” Ross said during the ceremony, which was webcast. “Most importantly, it will change an untenable status quo by providing first responders with the tools they need to keep us safe.

“Today is a landmark day for public safety across the country, and it is a prime example of the incredible progress we can make through public-private partnerships.”

AT&T will invest $46.5 billion into the FirstNet system, an endeavor that will create 10,000 jobs during the first two years and “tens of thousands” of jobs during the entire 25-year contract period, Ross said. According to the FirstNet request for proposals (RFP), AT&T will gain access to 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum and $6.5  billion, although it will pay at least $5.625 billion back to FirstNet during the next 25 years.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said his company is “ready to get started” with the network deployment of the FirstNet system.

“We really are honored to work with FirstNet to build a network for America’s police, firefighters, EMS and first responders that is going to be second to none,” Stephenson said. “This unprecedented public-private investment structure makes America a leader and public safety a priority. Our first responders, we believe, deserve the very best technology to help them save lives and help make our community safer, and that is exactly what FirstNet gives them.

“So, beginning this fall, AT&T will spend $40 billion to build and operate this network. FirstNet is a terrific model for how public-private partnerships can come together and accomplish really big things for America."

FirstNet Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson described the award as a “historical event for public safety,” noting that “this network will save many, many lives” by providing first responders with modern communications tools to help them perform their jobs.

“What we’re really here to do is to launch the construction of the world’s first mission-critical public-safety broadband network. This innovative public-private approach to the construction of this network is virtually unprecedented in public safety.

“I’m very proud of the vision that was foreseen by the mothers and fathers of this legislation. They had insights and instincts that really led to the eventual success of FirstNet and, to them, we owe a great debt of gratitude."