Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones—unveiled yesterday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—are approved FirstNet devices that operate on the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet, according to officials for FirstNet and its nationwide contractor, AT&T.

“By the end of March, first-responder subscribers can use the Galaxy S9/S9+ to tap into the full power of FirstNet,” according to an AT&T press release directed to the public-safety community. “This includes access to critical capabilities, like First Priority, which includes both priority and preemption, so you can experience a reliable, highly secure and always-on connection to the information you need.”

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, while the S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen and additional camera features. Both devices are IP68 rated for water and dust resistance and will be commercially available on March 16, beginning at a single-device cost of $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+, although those prices can be lowered with volume discounts and/or trade-ins of existing devices.

AT&T has stated that its dedicated public-safety LTE core—enabling the full suite of first-responder-specific capabilities—will be operational by the end of March.

In addition to IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, key public-safety features of the Galaxy S9/S9+ Samsung Knox for added security, as well as iris-scanning and facial-recognition functionality to help enable secure, quick authentication to access the device and applications. The Galaxy S9/S9+ also includes a longer-lasting battery, louder speaker volume and Samsung’s Dual Aperture camera that allows the user to capture clear images, even when it is dark or very bright.

For public safety, the Samsung announcement is a significant step in addressing one of the most-discussed fears that the first-responder community had expressed about public-safety broadband for more than a decade: Handset manufacturers might not want to include U.S. public-safety spectrum in devices, because the public-safety market is relatively small when compared to the global commercial-wireless market.

This concern was one of the reasons that Congress allowed the 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum to support commercial-wireless operations—secondary to public-safety traffic—in the legislation that established FirstNet. AT&T took the concept even further by stating that FirstNet public-safety subscribers would have priority and preemption capability across all of the telecom giant’s network, regardless of the spectrum band.

“First responders need smart, innovative and robust device options to help them carry out their missions. So, we’re excited to add the form and functionality of the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ to our FirstNet device portfolio later this March,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, said in prepared statement.

“We promised to work with the device community to help deliver next-generation technologies to public safety. And, we couldn’t be more pleased that Samsung built Band 14 into the Galaxy S9/S9+, helping us keep that commitment while unlocking access to top-of-the-line devices that first responders can use to help achieve their missions. The more innovation we can drive for our first responders, the more we can help them stay safe and save lives.”

FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher echoed this sentiment.

“The availability of the first Samsung device with built-in access to FirstNet’s public safety spectrum, Band 14, is a major development for the network,” Bratcher said in a prepared statement. “As we planned for FirstNet, public safety stressed to us time and again that access to innovative wireless broadband devices was critical. We are delivering on this key objective by developing and growing a global device ecosystem for FirstNet to help public safety with their lifesaving mission.

“By ensuring first responders have access to the latest commercial off-the-shelf technology via FirstNet, we are also enabling them to take advantage of cost savings and maximize the value of every public safety dollar.”