States or territories that achieve “opt-out” status must use the FirstNet LTE core network to provide broadband services to FirstNet public-safety users in both the “primary” and “extended primary” groups, according to information released recently by FirstNet and published on the organization’s web site.

Expected to be operational in March, the dedicated FirstNet core network being built by nationwide contractor AT&T will service all public-safety subscribers to FirstNet services. Use of the core network is required whether the user is in “opt-in” state/territory—where AT&T will build the LTE radio access network (RAN)—or in an “opt-out” state/territory that uses an alternative RAN built by a vendor selected by the state.

In information provided to new core-related questions added to its “Get the FirstNet Facts” page last week, FirstNet states that its approach is “essential to nationwide interoperability” and is consistent with the 2012 law that established FirstNet.

“FirstNet determined that the deployment of a single, national network architecture with a core network dedicated to public safety users across the country will reduce the risk of complications inherent in a multi-core architecture (operated by distinct entities), such as operational complexity, security complexity, and increased latency,” according to FirstNet. “The FirstNet core will have built-in redundancy to provide end-to-end cybersecurity.”

FirstNet’s core network will provide primary functions that “are vital to public safety’s life-saving mission and will differentiate FirstNet services from commercial offerings,” according to FirstNet.

“For example, it will be responsible for identity, credential, and access management (ICAM); application assurance; Quality of Service, priority, and preemption (QPP); monitoring and reporting of network health; and securing highly sensitive data with full encryption over the FirstNet network,” FirstNet states.

With all FirstNet public-safety subscribers utilizing the FirstNet core network, interoperable communications will be achieved, whether the user is in an “opt-in” state served by an AT&T-built RAN or in an “opt-out” state served by a RAN deployed by a different vendor, according to FirstNet.

And those public-safety subscribers that must use the FirstNet core network are not limited to the “primary” user groups consisting of subscribers in the traditional key public-safety groups of law enforcement, fire, EMS, 911 and emergency management. FirstNet subscribers in the “extended primary” user groups also must utilize the FirstNet core network, FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland informed IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Exactly which subscribers will be part of the “extended primary” user group has not been defined yet, although FirstNet has provided some guidelines on the matter to state officials, according to Oremland.

However, the “extended primary” user group is expected to consist of subscribers that service critical infrastructure or provide public-safety support services, including hospitals, utilities, transportation agencies and government entities.