LAS VEGAS—Public-safety subscribers in “opt in” states that accept the FirstNet deployment plan will have preemptive priority on FirstNet’s 700 MHz Band 14 network and throughout AT&T’s vast commercial networks, possibly by the end of the year, FirstNet and AT&T officials said yesterday.

AT&T yesterday was awarded the FirstNet contract to build and operate the Band 14 nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), the deployment of which is scheduled to be completed in phases during the next five years. Until the Band 14 network is constructed, public-safety agencies in “opt in” states will have preemptive access to all of AT&T commercial network that operates on 150 MHz of spectrum in various bands, according to FirstNet and AT&T officials.

AT&T currently offers public-safety agencies priority service on its commercial network, and preemptive capabilities are expected to be implemented at the end of the year—about the time when governors’ in 56 states and territories will decide whether their states will accept the FirstNet plan or pursue the “opt-out” alternative.

 “AT&T’s offer, we believe, is significantly better than any bidder, because we can offer our entire nationwide network—all commercial bands currently in the network today—will have preemption for first responders,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “So, when preemption turns up in our network, you’ll get it on all AT&T bands, not just Band 14. When Band 14 turns up, you’ll also have it there.

“I’ve been waiting nine months to tell people that. I’ve been so excited about it. We worry about states opting out, but once they hear that—amongst a number of other things we’re going to tell them—I think they’re going to be really excited.”

When AT&T builds the Band 14 public-safety LTE network in an area, traffic from FirstNet public-safety subscribers primarily will be transported across the Band 14 network with preemptive priority, FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher said yesterday during a session at IWCE 2017. If a Band 14 cell sector is saturated by priority public-safety users or is otherwise unavailable, the public-safety traffic would be transported with preemptive priority on AT&T’s commercial networks operating on different spectrum bands, he said.

FirstNet President TJ Kennedy described public-safety’s preemptive access to AT&T’s commercial networks, in addition to the Band 14 network, as “one of the great pieces of this solution.” AT&T also is bringing many other assets that promise to be beneficial to first responders, he said.