To ensure interoperability and availability of affordable mobile devices, the Act adopted Long Term Evolution (LTE) as the communications protocol for the FirstNet Network. LTE is a wireless communications standard developed by the 3GPP, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project. Commonly marketed by commercial carriers as 4G LTE, LTE is 10 times faster than 3G, making possible streaming video, medical telemetry, dynamic mapping, computer-aided dispatch, and remote access to databases and applications.
AT&T supports FirstNet service using an LTE network architecture composed of four major functional elements.
Courtesy of FirstNet
- Core Network. Also referred to as the EPC (Evolved Packet Core) or network core, the Core acts as the central controller for the network. The main functions of the Core Network include control of signaling between user devices and the network, connections to applications and systems, network subscriber information and profiles, as well as user traffic and quality of service.
- Transport. The transport backhaul network transfers the data between EPC to the RAN, typically via fiber optic and microwave links.
- Radio Access Network (RAN). The RAN refers to the network of towers and cell base station equipment called eNodeBs that connect wirelessly to user equipment devices.
- User Equipment. User equipment ranges from tablets and smartphones to laptop air cards and vehicle mounted routers used by public safety.
There is also a management capability to perform network management, provisioning, billing, accounting, authorization and access control. The Network provides more information about LTE network elements used for FirstNet service.