AT&T CEO Offers Peek at FirstNet Hardening Options
T&T CEO Randall Stephenson offered potential insights into ways that AT&T might harden the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) to withstand disasters such as Hurricane Irma.
“The requirements of the bid are that you build this nationwide network and that you build a wireless network and you fill in the white zones — the areas of the United States where the coverage is not good,” Stephenson said during the Goldman Sachs 26th Annual Communacopia Conference Sept. 12. “You fill that in, and you harden these networks. Think of bunkering in Florida; think of perpetual power backup in a place like Florida.”
Stephenson said that because of Irma about 25 percent of the company’s cell sites in the area were down.
“Virtually all of that is because of lack of power,” he said. “We can’t get people in to fuel generators because the roads aren’t open. So think of a hardened network where you don’t have this type of situation occur, even in the most significant disasters like we’re seeing with Irma.”
Stephenson also addressed potential competition in the public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) market. In August, Verizon announced that it was entering the market with a dedicated core and priority and pre-emption, and Southern Linc announced it had contracted with Alabama public-safety agencies to provide LTE services.
“The companies that come in and want to participate are obviously welcome and free to do that, but they’re going to have to be interoperable at all levels with AT&T and their services will have to operate within this spectrum band that the government allocated to us, called band 14,” Stephenson said. “So, there’s a lot of complexity in terms of how someone else would come in and compete.”
AT&T expects the FirstNet network to greatly build share in a market that it currently does not have a large share in right now, Stephenson said.
“We, AT&T, in the first responder community, have really low market share, so we view this as a good opportunity to take share in terms of selling services in to municipalities — the police forces, the fire stations, the fire departments, EMS — around the country,” he said.
The FirstNet buildout will also provide the company with a good opportunity to light up other spectrum, around 60 megahertz, that AT&T has acquired during the past few years, allowing for efficiencies in the buildout process, Stephenson said.
“We like where we are,” Stephenson said. “We think we’re in a very good position to get the network built and then to take significant share in these municipality and state first responder communities.”