States and other entities can influence this ranking of network components, such as “critical towers” that serve public-safety answering point (PSAP), according to Sambar.

“Like I said, a state in the west gave us 600 locations and said, ‘These all need to be public-safety grade, at a bare minimum,’” Sambar said. “And we said, ‘Absolutely. We will absolutely do that—it’s important to us, as well.

“I want you to understand that AT&T is fully committed to a public-safety-grade network.”

Sambar also addressed what he described as “fake news,” debunking the notion that AT&T would not deploy the FirstNet system on the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet.

“There’s apparently some rumors—though I haven’t read this—that we’re not going to use Band 14 at AT&T, [that] we’re going to keep Band 14 off to the side, and we’re going to use it for something else,” he said. “That’s not true. We are going to build out Band 14 broadly across our network—that’s the spectrum that was allocated for first responders.
During the Senate hearing in July, Sambar stated that AT&T would deploy equipment that operates on Band 14 spectrum—as well as AWS-3 and WCS spectrum—only in areas where the carrier needed additional capacity. Yesterday, Sambar said that Band 14 spectrum also will be leveraged on new towers built in rural areas.

“We’re using [Band 14 spectrum] for capacity and coverage both,” Sambar said. “Every new tower that we’re building in rural areas—and there’s going to be many of those, as we consult with the states—those are all going to get Band 14. But we’re not just going to put Band 14 on those towers; we’re going to put our commercial bands on those towers, as well. Because—as you know—those first responders need more than just 20 MHz of spectrum. We want to give them more, and we’ve made all 150-plus MHz of AT&T spectrum available to first responders.

“So, we will be deploying Band 14 broadly. It will be available to public safety and first responders, and will be put into devices as soon as we can get the device manufacturers to do so—some of which have already committed to it. And, I should say, most of them have.”

Gaining access to the Band 14 spectrum was a key benefit for AT&T, Sambar said.

“The spectrum wasn’t free; we had to make some huge commitments,” Sambar said. “Most people out there didn’t want to make those commitments to FirstNet, to the federal government and to public safety. AT&T made those commitments.

“Our strategy is to deploy Band 14 everywhere we need the capacity, as well as at all new sites in rural areas. I was asked a question by FirstNet during the process: ‘Do you believe that, over the course of 25 years, Band 14 will be just about everywhere in your network?’ I believe the answer is ‘Yes,’ but I can’t forecast 25 years. In the first five years, we have a significant portion of it that will be built out—much greater than 50% of our network. And over the years after that, we will continually be putting Band 14 into the network.”