Arizona yesterday accepted the FirstNet deployment plan to build the nationwide public-safety broadband networks (NPSBN) within its borders, making it the 12th state to “opt-in” and just the second state to make the decision after previously issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to build an alternative LTE radio access network (RAN).

“The State of Arizona is ready to work shoulder-to-shoulder with AT&T and FirstNet to finally deploy a true interoperable nationwide communications system for public safety,” Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said in a prepared statement. “We have much work ahead of us, but with AT&T's open communication and commitment to excellence, the future for all first responders will be safer as will the lives of our citizens.”

Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.

FirstNet released its initial state plans on June 19 and made them actionable, so governors would have the opportunity to “opt-in” to FirstNet prior to the final state plans. Previously, 11 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine and Montana—have announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.

In addition, Arizona is the second state—Michigan was the first—to announce an “opt-in” decision after issuing an RFP seeking bids from vendors willing to build an alternative RAN within the state.

“This decision comes after the state considered several options to get the best solution for its public safety community,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth—who began his law-enforcement career with the Tempe Police Department—said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet and AT&T are pleased to have been selected for having the best network solution for the state, and we are honored to serve Arizona's first responders.”

AT&T officials have stated that deployment of LTE on FirstNet’s 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum could begin as early as this year in certain parts of the country. Public-safety agencies in “opt-in” states are eligible to sign FirstNet contracts that give first responders priority access across AT&T’s commercial networks immediately and preemptive access by the end of the year.

“After thoughtful analysis that included issuing an RFP, Arizona concluded that opting in provided the best solution for their first responders. We couldn’t be more pleased about that,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T–FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “We take our public-safety mission very seriously, and we’re honored to deliver first responders access to the cutting-edge tools and technologies that will help them better serve the people of Arizona.”