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A first responder holds a smartphone showing a push-to-talk application

Devices for First Responders

Responders have unique communications needs, and their devices must be able to keep up with them. Whether responding to a fire, assessing damage following an accident, or transporting a patient, first responders need the right devices to easily stay connected. When planning for FirstNet, public safety told the FirstNet Authority they needed a device ecosystem to address this challenge.

The FirstNet Device Ecosystem consists of an extensive range of devices available to FirstNet users across all public safety disciplines at These devices include smartphones, tablets, routers, modems, and wearables that use FirstNet network capabilities to meet first responders’ unique needs. From ruggedization features like impact resistance and being waterproof to built-in public safety features like push-to-talk, these devices are built to work for responders.

The launch of the FirstNet network created opportunities to focus on public safety’s critical communications needs, and manufacturers continue to bring public safety devices into the marketplace. Devices must meet mandatory specifications to be considered for FirstNet approval, including Band 14 support and Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) mission-critical standards.

FirstNet Device Approval Program

In order to be approved for use on FirstNet, devices must go through a rigorous certification process that is built on AT&T’s industry-leading, standards-based wireless device testing and certification program. For a device to be certified:

  • AT&T validates that the device can operate within the FirstNet ecosystem and on Band 14.
  • The device is reviewed to ensure it meets the standard Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulatory certification and the PTCRB (PCS Type Certification Review Board) certification, which is a verification of conformance to meet 3GPP specification standards.
  • The FirstNet Authority performs oversight of AT&T device certifications to ensure the needs of public safety are met.

Once devices are approved, the FirstNet Authority recommends a list of devices approved to be used on the FirstNet network to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR). NIST is responsible for maintaining this list under the legislation that established FirstNet.

Testing and supporting device innovation

In addition to working with AT&T to bring devices into the FirstNet Device Ecosystem, the FirstNet Authority operates the Boulder FirstNet Lab in Boulder, Colorado. At the lab, FirstNet Authority staff can test device features and functionality on the FirstNet network and carry out network validation and testing.

The FirstNet Authority also supports technology challenges and contests aimed at advancing innovation for public safety devices. From exploring haptic interfaces to creating solutions to address disaster recovery, the FirstNet Authority collaborates with PSCR and others to provide subject matter expertise to ensure devices are developed with first responders in mind.

As technology continues to evolve, the FirstNet Authority will work with AT&T and industry to influence the development of devices focused on the needs of first responders​.