FirstNet build-out ahead of schedule
The build-out of FirstNet, the nationwide wireless public-safety network, is expected to be nearly three-quarters finished by year's end, according to AT&T, which was awarded the $6 billion, 25-year contract in 2017.
In a July 24 earnings call, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said that at the end of the second quarter, the company had established about 60% of its national coverage for FirstNet, which he noted is ahead of schedule. Because of that, the company has targeted 70% completion by the end of the year.
The FirstNet build-out is also fueling future 5G capabilities. "As we deploy FirstNet, we're installing hardware that could be upgraded to 5G with a simple software release,” Stephenson said. “As a result, we're on track for nationwide 5G coverage by the first half of 2020."
Meanwhile, a recent audit by the Commerce Department’s inspector general identified control weaknesses in the First Responder Network Authority's documentation and modifications of task orders to deploy, operate and maintain the FirstNet core.
Given the authority’s plans to spend $6.5 billion to build and operate the public-safety network, "FirstNet would benefit overall from strengthening controls to improve contract management," the IG’s report states.
FirstNet officials agreed with the audit's recommendations and said they are in the process of taking corrective actions.
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