An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | Jan. 31, 2024

FirstNet bringing additional communication capabilities to JBSA

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 allocated $7 billion and 20 megahertz of broadband spectrum to establish a communication network for first responders across the country and to create the First Responders Network Authority, known as FirstNet. Joint Base San Antonio is now utilizing that authority to build an expanded communications infrastructure for better connectivity, especially during emergency situations or disasters.

FirstNet Authority, an independent U.S. government agency within the Department of Commerce, awarded a 25-year contract to the American Telephone and Telegraph, or AT&T, Company in March 2017 to create and oversee the buildout, deployment, and operation of FirstNet.

Over the next two years, JBSA’s efforts are focused on bringing cellular infrastructure valued at more than $25 million to its installations, drastically improving communication capabilities, according to Michael Lovell, executive director of the JBSA-Electromagnetic Defense Initiative which is leading the program.   

“During a crisis, communication is key, and FirstNet will help us communicate not only internally, but externally with our community partners locally … at a time when every second counts,” said Briza Horace, the project's director.

“Effective communications play a vital role in disseminating timely and accurate information, ensuring public safety, fostering community resilience, and facilitating swift response efforts,” she said. “Clear and concise communication is crucial to keep military installations and the community well-informed and coordinated in times of crisis.”

Paul Ramos, the project’s manager, believes FirstNet will be a game changer for JBSA, not only in crisis, but also in building military capabilities.

“This infrastructure will provide advanced cellular connectivity to leverage 5G and Internet of Things, or IoT, technologies, increasing throughput for both FirstNet and commercial cellular subscribers,” he said.

“I also believe it will be a game changer because JBSA-Fort Sam Houston is where all military medics train before they are sent to their Army, Navy, and Air Force permanent stations,” he said. 

“A great part of military medics’ mission is to provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” Ramos said. "The FirstNet capability is another tool that can be utilized for emergency events requiring interoperable communications."

It is important to note that FirstNet at JBSA will not be limited to one specific carrier’s equipment.

“Our project will allow other commercial providers to install antennas on the poles which will be installed by the contractor selected for JBSA’s FirstNet,” Horace said.

That contractor has begun evaluating locations for installation of FirstNet infrastructure across JBSA.

In December 2023, a team surveyed sites for infrastructure at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, JBSA-Camp Bullis, and JBSA-Randolph.

Last week, surveys were conducted at JBSA-Lackland, JBSA-Chapman Training Annex, and JBSA’s Canyon Lake Recreation Area.

“Once these capabilities are up and running, there will be significant improvement in communications across JBSA," Horace said. "This includes enhanced response times, better coordination among the base and community, and increased overall effectiveness during a crisis."