AT&T Partners Can Aid Life-Saving Efforts With FirstNet Emergency Communications Network

‘Many [solution providers] know the police or fire marshal that patrols their neighborhoods, so now partners can be part of the mission of FirstNet,’ says Zee Hussain, AT&T's senior vice president of global business, on why they have been asking for access to selling the dedicated network for first responders in the U.S.


AT&T has been busy building out and managing the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) national public-safety broadband network, a dedicated network for first responders in the U.S., since it won the bid in March 2017. Now, more solution providers can market, promote and sell FirstNet to their own customers.

FirstNet, a government program operated by AT&T, provides universal emergency response communications and covers all 50 states, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and all rural communities and tribal lands in those states and territories. AT&T last June gave a handful of partners access to sell FirstNet, but now the carrier is opening up the service to more solution providers in its Alliance Channel who are now able to sell the service that protects and serves millions, Zee Hussain, AT&T's senior vice president of global business, told CRN.

"It's huge for two reasons—one, it's a monetization opportunity for partners, and two, most of our solution providers are small businesses and very much embedded in their community. Many of them know the police or fire marshal that patrols their neighborhoods, so now partners can be part of the mission of FirstNet," Hussain said.

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So far, AT&T has built out about 53 percent of FirstNet, an IP-based, high-speed mobile communications network. The Dallas-based carrier said in April during its first-quarter 2019 earnings call with investors that it's running ahead of its schedule to complete the entire network buildout. On the call, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that about 7,000 agencies and more than 570,000 subscribers have signed on for service from FirstNet, and that those numbers are growing.

Stephenson said that during its past several financial quarters, the carrier was seeing some AT&T customers transitioning to become FirstNet customers. But first-quarter 2019, which ended March 31, saw more FirstNet subscribers coming onto the network that were brand-new to AT&T’s network. AT&T's Hussain said that the FirstNet Dealer Program makes it easier for interested customers—first responders and public safety agencies—to work with the same solution providers they trust to sign up for FirstNet.

Panasonic System Solutions, a division of Panasonic Corp., is a FirstNet Dealer within AT&T's Alliance Channel that joined the FirstNet program last June. As a FirstNet Dealer, Panasonic can sell FirstNet services to its public safety customers, said Brandon Williams, director of Panasonic's U.S. mobility channel.

Panasonic has a channel of about 180 resellers who can also sell FirstNet services along with Panasonic's ruggedized notebooks, 2-in-1 devices, tablets, and other handheld solutions that first responders and government customers rely on, Williams said.

"There's such great synergy between what we do on the rugged hardware side and what AT&T is doing on the wireless side with FirstNet," he said.

Rugged devices require connectivity and communications, and Panasonic is working "right alongside" public safety customers to help them figure out the right solution that fits their particular needs and service areas, said Mary Beth Hall, director of wireless strategy for Panasonic.

"We believe our partners can provide the local support for these public safety agencies, which is a huge value for them," she said.

Since the beginning of its buildout, the FirstNet network has been used in places that would have otherwise had very limited or no connectivity or internet access, such as serving first responders working on the scene of the wildfires in California and hurricane-flooded land on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Prior to FirstNet, first responders had to rely on commercial networks that were also being used by consumers and businesses for mobile data, but these networks were often heavily congested during significant public safety crises.

AT&T partners have been asking the carrier for access to sell FirstNet, said Stacey Marx, AT&T's new channel chief.

"It's exciting," She said. "It's giving partners a sense of pride because they are helping out their communities."