Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

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Questions List

What is FirstNet?

FirstNet is analogous to a non-profit cellular carrier who is building a separate nationwide cellular data network for first responders. "FirstNet" is short for "First Responder Network Authority".

FirstNet is an independent authority within the US National Telecommunications and Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is a government entity that has a self-funding mandate and is authorized to charge fees for its service, not unlike the United States Postal Service.

FirstNet was created in 2013 to provide emergency responders with the first high-speed, nationwide cellular data network network dedicated to public safety.

For more information on FirstNet, visit their website:

FirstNet was created by US Congress in US Public Law 112-96, Section 6204, better known as the "US Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012". A GPO-certified copy of the full text of this legislation is available at

What is the NPSBN and the OPSBN?

NPSBN means “Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network”. It will be a nationwide public safety cellular data network similar to Verizon or AT&T LTE built for public safety.

OPSBN means "Ohio Public Safety Broadband Network". It means the same thing as "NPSBN", but as applies to the state of Ohio. Our publications may use either the term interchangeably, or may favor the use of either "NPSBN" or "OPSBN" depending on context.

What is OFIP, or the OhioFirst.Net Implementation Project?

OFIP, or the "OhioFirst.Net Implementation Project" is an Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS)-sponsored research and planning project to prepare for implementation of the NPSBN in the state of Ohio. 

Through this project, the State will work with the US First Responder Network Authority to deploy the system statewide.

Will FirstNet charge fees?

Yes. FirstNet intends to charge user fees to sustain the operations of the network, because FirstNet is a self-funded independent authority. It is not unlike how MARCS or the United States Postal Service charge fees to sustain their operations.

When can we expect the NPSBN to be operational?

At this point, there are no published dates. We do not anticipate the NPSBN to be operational any time in the year 2015.

Am I forced to adopt FirstNet Service?

Nobody is required to use FirstNet service. If you as a public safety entity prefer your commercial cellular service, or you cannot afford FirstNet service, you do not have to pay for it and you will not be penalized for not using it.

How much will it cost?

We do not have enough information to speculate on the cost of the service. However, Ohio requires that FirstNet service will have to be price-competitive with commercial carrier service. This means it will be priced similarly, or it will provide a quality of service much better than commercial service at a slightly higher price. 

Ohio will not accept a proposal from FirstNet that charges exorbitant monthly fees to users. This is because nobody is required to use FirstNet service. If the service is too expensive, nobody will want to voluntarily adopt it and the network will not be sustainable.

Will FirstNet replace my radio? Will it replace MARCS?

Not for the foreseeable future, but it is possible some day in the future. It is not a present priority for Ohio to replace radio systems, including MARCs or your local radio system, with FirstNet. 

It is a natural part of technology that communication services converge. For example, today many people use the internet for all of their communications and no longer have separate telephone or TV service at home. However, this was not the case when the internet was new. For many years the internet was secondary to a home telephone to communicate with the outside world. This has switched for most households today, and the internet is now the primary way people communicate with the outside world. Most younger households do not even have a landline phone. However, it took over 20 years for these changes to happen.

Cellular technologies will probably replace radio technology someday. However, they aren't capable of doing this today, and such a change will take many years to happen.

We don't recommend making communications decisions today with the assumption that FirstNet will replace your radio.

How much will the network cost my agency to build?

Nothing. Both FirstNet and Ohio are pursuing a model that does not incur capital, or initial construction, costs to users. The costs of building and operating the network will be sustained by user fees. This is exactly the same very successful model cellular carriers use to build commercial networks.

Who is defined as "public safety" for the purposes of using this network?

The NPSBN is for public safety users and qualified secondary users. “Public safety” includes all personnel whose sole or principle purpose is the protection of life, safety and property as well as support organizations. The state of Ohio is using a very broad definition for "public safety" to include many government functions outside of first response, such as public works, education and natural resource protection.

FirstNet is permitted to provide service to non-public safety users, such as public utilities, on a secondary basis through public-private partnerships. 

FirstNet is prohibited from marketing cellular service directly to consumers or competing directly with commercial cellular carriers; i.e., FirstNet cannot act like a regular cellular carrier and sell service directly to the general public.

Will FirstNet replace my commercial service through Verizon, AT&T and so on?

Yes, if you adopt the service FirstNet can be your cellular carrier. 

For public safety customers, Ohio requires that FirstNet offer comprehensive cellular service including text messaging, telephone calls and broadband data.

I read that 5G will be ready sometime. Will FirstNet keep up with commercial cellular carriers?

Yes. By picking the international LTE standard, FirstNet will keep pace with commercial carriers such as Verizon and AT&T.

LTE is an open standard developed by the organization 3GPP. If you would like to read about the LTE standard, visit their website at

What is "opt-out"?

FirstNet is required to prepare a proposal for review by the governor of each state before building in that state. This includes the state of Ohio. That means the governor of Ohio will grant permission for FirstNet to build the network in Ohio.

The governor has the right to refuse FirstNet's proposal. This is called "opt-out". In this event, the state will be required to develop their own plan to build a network. This network must be seamless connected to the nationwide network. The Federal government has to approve the state's plan.

"Opt-out" does not make a difference for public safety users. The only difference is that Ohio builds the network in the state and connects to the nationwide network. Public safety will get the same level of service regardless of whether the state approves of FirstNet's plan, or opts-out and develops its own plan.

What is this network for if we already have cellular service now?

First responders use cellular data every day; for example, most police cars today have computers connected to the internet. However, public safety can't depend on cellular data during major incidents because the networks become overloaded with traffic as individuals contact loved ones to tell them they are OK, call 9-1-1 asking for help or upload photos and videos to social media sites. These are all valid uses of the network by the public, but it means public safety can't depend on cellular networks during emergencies and needs its own network.

Major cellular carriers agree; they support the FirstNet initiative. All four major nationwide cellular carriers in the United States (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) have consistently made statements, on the record, that are generally supportive of the FirstNet initiative (see, for example, responses filed with the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration available at

Can I use my old phone on FirstNet's network?

No, you cannot use your old phone on FirstNet's network because it doesn't work on the frequencies FirstNet uses. You will need to purchase a new device to operate on the network.

For a more technical answer, see the following diagram:

FirstNet operates on LTE Band 14, which is labeled "public safety" in the diagram above. The frequencies for Band 14 are very similar to the frequencies used at AT&T and Verizon for their 4G LTE data service, but they are not exactly the same frequencies. This is like how you might purchase a cell phone that works with Verizon, but doesn't work with AT&T, and if you switch carriers you will need to purchase a new phone.

Today's cell phones are not designed to support Band 14 because there is no network for them to operate on--not yet. This is much like how your old 3G phone didn't work on 4G networks, and to use 4G, you needed to buy a new phone. Your 3G phone didn't support 4G because, when the phone was manufactured, there was no 4G network for it to work with.

Will the NPSBN be secure?

A high level of security is built-in to the LTE standard that powers the NPSBN including encryption. The network will be at least as secure as the commercial networks agencies send sensitive information today and the NPSBN will be required to meet all appropriate FIPS requirements.

Can I use the same device, like my phone, anywhere in the country?

Yes. The NPSBN is one nationwide network, even if Ohio opts-out and builds the network in Ohio without FirstNet. Every state connects to the same core network and every user connects to the global internet.