Transition to the AT&T-built platform will soon kick off.
FBI personnel will shift from using Verizon wireless capabilities to those from AT&T-built FirstNet, through a recently secured, roughly $92 million contract that will also extend the platform’s reach across the Justice Department’s broader user-base.
The agreement for services spanning both day-to-day and emergency functions marks FirstNet’s largest commitment from a law enforcement or public safety agency—and follows a recent ruling by the Government Accountability Office to settle a dispute connected to the procurement.
"The FBI's award to AT&T is testament to FirstNet's law enforcement-specific attributes,” Vice President of AT&T’s FirstNet Program Stacy Schwartz said in an announcement Tuesday.
Created by AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority, FirstNet is a high-speed broadband communications platform that offers first responders around the country nonstop priority and preemption across voice and data. As of late September, more than 14,000 public safety agencies and organizations subscribed to FirstNet.
“During an emergency, if network resources are scarce or unavailable, it will automatically push non-emergency users to other bands of spectrum to allow critical law enforcement resources, like the FBI, to maintain access to their voice and data,” officials noted in the release.
Through this latest effort, the FBI will tap into FirstNet via FirstNet Ready devices including smartphones, air cards, modems and more. Other agencies within the Justice Department will also be able to extend their FirstNet adoptions or initiate use of the platform’s services through the contract.
This agreement’s roots trace back to 2019 when the FBI first moved to establish a single-award blanket purchase agreement for comprehensive wireless voice and data telecommunication services for up to five years. The contract was initially awarded to Verizon that year, but AT&T swiftly protested. It was again awarded to Verizon, but AT&T again protested and the FBI ultimately opted to reevaluate the contract, then eventually selected AT&T to fulfill the BPA. Shortly after—during the summer of this year—Verizon protested.
The Government Accountability Office formally denied Verizon’s protest in November.
Verizon’s mobility services were leveraged by the FBI for more than 10 years. Schwartz confirmed that the agency will likely begin transitioning over to the FirstNet platform early next year.