Chris Sambar, AT&T | AT&T Spark 2018

Chris Sambar, AT&T | AT&T Spark 2018


>>From the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, it’s theCUBE, covering AT&T Spark. Now here’s Jeff Frick.>>Hey welcome back everybody, Jeff Frick here with theCUBE. We’re at San Francisco, at the historic Palace of Fine Arts, it’s a beautiful spot, it’s redone, they moved Exploratorium
out a couple years ago, so now it’s in a really nice event space, and we’re here for the AT&T Spark Event, and the conversation’s all around 5G. But we’re excited to have our first guest, and he’s working on something that’s a little bit tangential to 5G-related, but not absolutely connected,
but really important work, it’s Chris Sambar, he is the SVP of FirstNet at AT&T, Chris, great to see you.>>Thanks Jeff, great to
be here, I appreciate it.>>Yeah, so you had a
nice Keynote Presentation, talking about FirstNet. So for people I’ve missed, that aren’t familiar,
what is AT&T FirstNet?>>Sure, I’ll give a quick background. As I was mentioning up there, tomorrow is the 17-year
Anniversary of 9/11. So 17 years ago tomorrow, a big problem in New York City. Lots of first responders
descended on the area. All of them were trying to
communicate with each other, they were trying to use their radios, which they’re you know, typically what you see
a first responder using, the wireless networks in the area. Unfortunately challenges,
it wasn’t working. They were having trouble
communicating with each other, their existing wireless networks were getting congested, and so the 9/11 Commission came out with a report years later, and they said we need a
dedicated communications network, just for First Responders. So they spun all this up and they said, we’re going to dedicate some Spectrum, 20 megahertz of D-Class Spectrum, which is really prime Spectrum. Seven billion dollars
and we’re going to set up this Federal entity, called
the FirstNet Authority, and they’re going to create
a Public Safety Network across America. So FirstNet Authority spent a few years figuring out how to do it, and they landed on what we have today, which was a Public/Private Partnership, between AT&T, and Public
Safety throughout America, and we’re building them a terrific network across the country. It is literally a separate
network so when I, I think of wireless in America, I think of four main commercial carriers, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint. This is the 5th carrier, this is Public Safety’s
Wireless Network just for them.>>So when you say an extra network, so it’s a completely separate, obviously you’re
leveraging infrastructure, like towers and power and
those types of things. But it’s a completely separate network, than the existing four that you mentioned.>>Yeah, so if you walk
into our data centers throughout the country, you’re going to see separate hardware, physical infrastructure
that is just for FirstNet, that’s the core network
just for this network. On the RAN, the Radio Access Network, we’ve got antennas that
have Band 14 on them, that’s Public Safety’s Band, dedicated just for them when they need it. So yeah, it’s literally a
physically separate network. The SIM card that goes
into a FirstNet device, is a different SIM card than our commercial users would use, because it’s separate.>>So one of the really
interesting things about 5G, and kind of the evolution of wireless is, is taking some of the
load that has been taken by like WiFi, and other options for fast, always on connectivity. I would assume radio, and I don’t know that much
about radio frequencies that have been around forever
with communications in, in First Responders. Is the vision that the 5G will eventually take over that type of
communication as well?>>Yeah, absolutely. If you look at the evolution
of First Responder, and Public Safety Communications, for many years now they’ve used radios. Relatively small, narrow Spectrum bands for Narrow Band Voice, right,
just voice communications. It really doesn’t do data, maybe a little bit, but really not much. Now they’re going to
expand to this Spectrum, the D-Class, the D-Block
Spectrum, excuse me, which is 700 megahertz,
it’s a low-band Spectrum, that’ll provide them
with Dedicated Spectrum, and then the next step, as you say, is 5G, so take the load off as Public Safety comes into the, the new Public Safety
Communications space, that they’ve really been
wanting for years and years, they’ll start to utilize
5G as well on our network.>>So where are you on the
development of FirstNet, where are you on the rollout, what’s the sequence of events?>>The first thing we did, the award was last year in March 2017. The first thing we did was we
built out the core network. When I talked about all that
physical infrastructure, that basically took a year to build out, and it was pretty extensive, and about a half a billion dollars so, that was the first thing we did, that completed earlier this year.>>Was that nationwide or
major metro cities or how–>>Nationwide, everywhere in the country.>>Nationwide, okay.>>So now what we’re doing is, we are putting the Spectrum
that we were given, or I should say we were
leased for 25 years, we’re putting that Spectrum
up across our towers all over the country so, that will take five years,
it’s a five-year build-out, tens of thousands of
towers across America, will get this Public Safety Spectrum, for Public Safety, and for their use.>>Right. Will you target by GEO, by Metro area, I mean, how’s it going to actually happen? That’s a huge global rollout,
five years is a long time. How you kind of prioritize, how are you really going
to market with this?>>The Band 14 Spectrum is
being rolled out in the major, the major dense areas across the country. I will tell you that by
the end of the rollout, five years from now, 99% of
the population of America, will have Band 14 Spectrum, so the vast majority of the population. Other areas where we don’t roll it out, rural areas for example, all of the features that
Public Safety wants, we call them (mumbles) and priority, which is the features to allow them to always have access to the
network whenever they need it. Those features will be on our
regular commercial Spectrum. So if Band 14 isn’t there, the network will function exactly as if it were there for them.>>Right. Then how do you roll
it out to the agencies, all the First Responders,
the Fire, the Police, the EMTs, et cetera? How do they start to take
advantage of this opportunity?>>Sure, so we started
that earlier this year. We really started in a
March-April timeframe in earnest, signing up agencies, and the
uptake’s been phenomenal. It’s over 2500 Public Safety
Agencies across America, over 150,00, and that number
grows by thousands every week. That’s actually a pretty old number but, they are signing up in droves. In fact, one of the problems
we were having initially is, handling the volume of First Responders that wanted to sign up, and the reason is they’re seeing that, whether it’s a fire out in Oregon, and they need connectivity
in the middle of nowhere, in a forest where there’s no
wireless connectivity at all, we’ll bring a vehicle out there, put up an antenna and
provide them connectivity. Whether it’s a Fourth of
July show, or a parade, or an active shooter, wherever large groups of people, combined together and the
network gets congested, they’re seeing that wow, my device works no matter what. I can always send a text message, I can send a video, it just works. Where it didn’t work before. So they love it, and they’re really, they’re really signing
up in droves, it’s great.>>It’s really interesting because it’s, it’s interesting that this was triggered, as part of the post 9/11
activity to make things better, and make things safer. But there was a lot of buzz, especially out here in the West with, with First Responders in the news, who were running out of band width. As you said, the Firefighters, the fire’s been burning out here, it seems like forever, and really nobody thinking about those, or obviously they’re probably roaming on their traditional data plan, and they’re probably out there, for weeks and weeks at a time, that wasn’t part of their allocation, when they figured out
what plan they should be. So the timing is pretty significant, and there’s clearly a big demand for this.>>Absolutely. So that example that you
sight is a really good one. Two weeks ago, there was a lot in the news about a fire agency in the West, that said they were
throttled by their carrier. It was a commercial carrier, and commercial carriers
have terms and conditions, that sometimes they
need to throttle usage, if you get to a certain level. That’s how commercial networks work.>>Right, right.>>FirstNet was built with
not only different technology, hardware, software, but with different terms and conditions. Because we understand that, when a First Responder
responds to your house, we don’t want that to
be the minute in time, when their network, their plan got maxed out, and now they’re getting throttled.>>Right.>>So we don’t have any throttling on the FirstNet Network. So it’s not only the hardware, software, technical aspects of the network, but the terms and
conditions are different. It’s what you would expect
that a First Responder would have and want on their device, and that’s what we’re providing for them.>>Right, and the other cool
thing that you mentioned is, we see it all the time, we
go to a lot of conferences. A lot of people probably experience it at, at big events right, is that still today, WiFi and traditional LTE, has hard times in
super-dense environments, where there’s just tons
and tons and tons of bodies I imagine,
absorbing all that signal, as much as anything else, so to have a separate Spectrum in those type of environments which are usually chaotic when you got First Responders, or some of these mass
events that you outlined, is a pretty important feature, to not get just completely wiped out by everybody else happening to
be there at the same time.>>Exactly. I’ll give you two quick examples, that’ll illustrate what you just said. The first one is, on the Fourth of July, in
downtown Washington D.C. You can imagine that show. It’s an awesome show, but there are hundreds
of thousands of people that gather around that
Washington Monument, to watch the show. And the expectation is
at the peak of the show, when all those people are there, you’re not really going to
be sending text messages, or calling people, the network’s probably just
not going to work very well. That’s, we’ve all gotten used to that.>>Right, right.>>This year, I had First Responders, who were there during the event, sending me videos of
the fireworks going off. Something that never would’ve
been possible before, and them saying oh my gosh. The actually works the
way it’s supposed to work, we can use our phones. Then the second example,
which is a really sad example. There was a recent school
shooting down in Florida. You had Sheriffs, Local
Police, Ambulances. You even had some Federal
Authorities that showed up. They couldn’t communicate with each other, because they were on
different radio networks. Imagine if they had that
capability of FirstNet, where they could
communicate with each other, and the network worked, even though there were thousands of people that were gathering around that scene, to see what was going on. So that’s the capability we’re
bringing to Public Safety, and it’s really good for all of us.>>Do you see that this is kind of the, the aggregator of the
multi-disparate systems that exist now, as you mentioned in, in your Keynote, and again
there’s different agencies, they’ve got different frequencies, they’ve got Police, Fire,
Ambulance, Federal Agencies, that now potentially this, as just kind of a unified
First Responder network, becomes the defacto way, that I can get in touch
with anyone regardless of of where they come from, or
who they’re associated with?>>That is exactly the vision of FirstNet. In major cities across America, Police, Fire, Emergency Medical typically, are on three different radio networks, and it’s very difficult for them to communicate with each other. They may have a shared
frequency or two between them, but it’s very challenging for them. Our goal is to sign all of them up, put them on one LTE network,
the FirstNet Network, customized for them, so they can all communicate
with each other, regardless of how much
congestion is on the network. So that’s the vision of FirstNet.>>Then that’s even before
you get into the 5G impacts, which will be the data impacts, whereas I think again, you
showed in some of your examples, the enhanced amount of data
that they can bring to bear, on solving a problem, whether it’s a layout of a building for the Fire Department or
drone footage from up above. We talked to Menlo Park Fire, they’re using drones more and more to give eyes over the fire to the
guys down on the ground. So there’s a lot of really
interesting applications that you can get more better data, to drive more better applications
through that network, to help these guys do their job.>>Yeah, you’ve got it,
the smart city’s cameras, don’t you want that to be able
to stream over the network, and give it to First Responders, so they know what they’re
going to encounter, when they show up to the scene of whatever issue’s going on in the city, of course you do, and you need a really
reliable, stable network to provide that on.>>Well Chris, this is not
only an interesting work, but very noble, and an important work, so appreciate all of the efforts that you’re putting in, and thanks for stopping by.>>I appreciate it Jeff, it’s
been great talking with you.>>Alright, he’s Chris, I’m Jeff, you’re watching theCUBE, we’re in San Francisco at
the Palace of Fine Arts, at AT&T Spark. Thanks for watching,
we’ll see you next time. (bright music)

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