responder with cellphone

FBI expands use of FirstNet services

The FBI has signed on for FirstNet mobility services to support its day-to-day and emergency operations.

The FBI will expand its use of the nationwide public safety wireless broadband network using FirstNet Ready devices such as smartphones, air cards modems and more.  The five-year, $92 million deal with AT&T, the company managing the deployment of FirstNet, represents the largest commitment to the network by a law enforcement or public safety agency.

Several Justice Department agencies already use FirstNet, including the Antitrust Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Those agencies can expand their usage through the new contract, said the company.

The DOJ signed a $1 billion contract with AT&T under the GSA's $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions next-generation telecommunications contract in July 2019. That contract included DOJ agencies' use of FirstNet, but didn't cover the FBI.

The FBI contract's path reflects the rivalry between AT&T and Verizon, which have competed for years in the public safety and emergency responder wireless communications market.

AT&T and Verizon began battling over the FBI contract in 2019, when an initial blanket purchase agreement through the GSA’s Schedule 70 was awarded to Verizon. The BPA, with a potential $300 million ceiling, supported 70,000 lines, and included handsets, air cards and modems.

AT&T had protested the initial Verizon award. The FBI pulled the award back and reevaluated the contract. Another round of protests followed, with the agency re-awarding the contract to AT&T this past July. Verizon immediately protested the award on pricing and performance issues, which led to a Nov. 3 denial by the Government Accountability Office.

Other federal agencies, including those in the Defense Department have already joined the FirstNet network.

In September, the Army’s Installation Management Command announced it was signing up over 70 bases for FirstNet devices and services. A firm-fixed-price task order will provide IMCOM with AT&T FirstNet wireless devices and services for Army public safety officers, first responders and emergency officials at approximately 73 Army locations in the U.S. 

AT&T is also working with Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to equip first responders and eligible public safety users with FirstNet access and equipment and get 5G deployed to what is envisioned as a “smart base of the future.” A separate job at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada has AT&T rolling out both 5G infrastructure and the FirstNet public safety network there.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN. 

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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