NG911 and FirstNet

Overview: NG911 & FirstNet

Table of Contents NG911 Overview
What’s Next Generation 911 (NG911)?
Who is building NG911 systems?
Why is NG911 needed?
How did NG911 come about?
What are the challenges in implementing NG911?
What is FirstNet?
Who is building the FirstNet Network?
Why is FirstNet needed?
How did FirstNet come about?

What is Next Generation 911 (NG911)?
NG911 is an internet protocol (IP)-based 911 system that will replace the existing analog 911 infrastructure. NG911 allows 911 callers, through mobile and digital devices, to communicate with 911 call centers, also known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). This includes the ability to share richer data such as videos, images and texts. It also enhances the ability of 911 call centers to better communicate with each other and improves 911 system resiliency.

Who is building NG911 systems?
NG911 will be built by states, counties, municipalities and regional authorities. These 911 systems are all funded and managed differently. NG911 will be launched in each state according to its own unique circumstances and governance.

Why is NG911 needed?
NG911 is a necessary upgrade of the 911 system to adapt to how people communicate today - largely through mobile and digital devices. NG911 allows for the public and others to send digital data to 911 call centers, including audio and video recordings, livestreaming video, photos, texts, etc. 911 call centers will also be able to receive data from other transmitting devices such as wearable medical devices, car computers, building alarms, etc. NG911 is a critical component of a two-part emergency communications system (NG911 and FirstNet) which will allow for the sharing of more data with 911 dispatch centers and in turn with field responders.

NG911 upgrades enable faster network communication, seamless integration and call load sharing between 911 call centers, a function severely limited or non-existent using today’s antiquated systems. In cases of mass casualty incidents or natural disasters, when the closest PSAP becomes overwhelmed by calls, an IP-based NG911 system will allow for the automated transfer and processing of calls at another available PSAP.

How did NG911 come about?
Recognizing that the growing use of mobile phones would impact emergency communications, national 911 associations called for all 911 call centers to begin upgrading their systems from analog, copper-based wire communications to systems that could integrate with mobile communications and digital data. Early work on NG911 was done in concert and independently at the national level by organizations such as the Association of Public–Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and others. These organizations provided the initial vision and framework for how to integrate wireless and digital communications with the 911 infrastructure.

What are the challenges in implementing NG911?
Due to the need to invest in new technologies and also maintain existing legacy 911 systems, funding will likely be a challenge for many states and localities. In addition, the implementation of NG911 may necessitate governance modifications at the state and local level. Finally, NG911 may be implemented inconsistently across the nation, causing a potential divide between urban and rural communities as some areas move toward optimal 911 services more quickly than others.◆


Benefits of NG911

  • Integrates with mobile and digital devices
  • Allows for the sharing of digital datavideo, text, photos, audio—with 911 call takers and field responders
  • Offers a more robust system for load sharing during high call volume times
  • Improved responder safety through quicker access to additional information
  • Enables cost savings in network sharing and other resources, e.g. GIS mapping

What is FirstNet?
NG911 OverviewThe First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The organization’s mission is to develop, build and operate a nationwide, broadband network for first responders. The nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), commonly referred to as FirstNet, is a public/private federal program that will provide a wireless broadband network for first responders.

Who is building the FirstNet network?
By law, FirstNet is responsible for building a nationwide public safety broadband network. That network has two elements: core network and radio access network. FirstNet worked with each state to develop state-specific plans. States can choose to adopt the state plan, in which case FirstNet takes on the responsibility for all network elements for that state; or states can opt out and build their own radio access network as long as it meets FirstNet’s specifications for interoperability with the network core.

Initial funding to begin development of the FirstNet network was provided through a federal law that created this Authority. There was a bidding process, and in 2017, AT&T was selected as the private contractor to build it.

Why is FirstNet needed?
FirstNet offers a digital communication tool for first responder teams to communicate with one another in the field, and receive important information from 911 call centers. FirstNet aims to provide seamless, mobile broadband communication among public safety responder agencies. Through the FirstNet network, emergency dispatchers will be able to securely share critical information about the scene of an incident, such as building layouts, potential injuries, photos, videos and real-time updates, including information sent in via NG911.

How did FirstNet come about?
A coalition of public safety organizations and stakeholder groups realized the need for enhanced interoperability and data sharing between public safety professionals during emergencies, as well as the pressing need for a first responder wireless network. This coalition lobbied Congress to fund an organization to tackle the challenge of building a broadband digital network for emergency responders. In 2012, Congress signed a bill into law that created the FirstNet organization and provided initial funding to build the FirstNet network.◆

Benefits of FirstNet

  • Ensures wireless network availability for first responder use
  • Allows for better communication and collaboration among public safety agencies
  • More robust network during emergencies
  • Nationwide coordination and support for building the network
  • Enhances situational awareness in emergencies