Public safety workers across the United States continue to turn to the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority’s broadband public safety wireless network to advance their routine and emergency responses. Nearly 9,000 public safety agencies and organizations have subscribed to the FirstNet network, accounting for more than 750,000 connections in service.
The network, built by AT&T under a contract granted by the FirstNet Authority, offers first responders and those critical to their response a purpose-built experience.
“FirstNet is designed to be different because that’s what public safety specifically asked for,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “This is the only platform that has been built from the ground up just for this community, and we believe FirstNet is the most important network in the country because it serves public safety across the country. As we grow and evolve FirstNet, we’re proud to connect more members of the public safety community and further empower the men and women we rely on to keep us safe with the advanced communications capabilities needed to help strengthen their mission delivery.”
For the second consecutive quarter, the network has brought subscribers the fastest overall network experience. According to the results of tests taken with Speedtest as analyzed by AT&T, the FirstNet network performed faster than any commercial network. The conclusion is based on AT&T’s analysis of Ookla Speedtest Intelligence data average download speeds for the second quarter of 2019.
These results come as the number of FCC cellular markets with the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum nears 650. The FirstNet Authority said it is moving quickly with about 65 percent of its nationwide coverage targets completed well ahead of schedule. The more it rolls out Band 14 across the country, the more the federal agency is able to provide first responders with dedicated coverage and capacity. This helps first responders reliably connect to critical information, communicate and coordinate, according to the authority.
In coming months, FirstNet subscribers will receive another boost in connectivity. AT&T and Assured Wireless are working together to develop what they call safe and effective solutions that bring first responders the benefits of high-power user equipment (HPUE). Following 3GPP standards, HPUE solutions can transmit at stronger signals. This signal increase can only be done using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum.
According to the FirstNet Authority, for rural and remote responders, HPUE could significantly increase their coverage area. For urban and suburban responders, HPUE will help solve the challenge of indoor coverage. The stronger signal will better assist those connecting from hard-to-reach places such as basements, elevators, stairwells and parking garages, helping first responders communicate inside and out.
“Our collaboration with AT&T is a perfect example of technology’s power to do great things for public safety,” said Tom Bilotta, CEO of Assured Wireless. “The standards-based HPUE solutions that we plan to bring forward will build on the unique capabilities of FirstNet to further strengthen first responders’ ability to communicate no matter where their mission takes them.”
With the FirstNet Response Operations Program established a year ago, the federal agency offers support for planned events and emergencies. The FirstNet Authority said that so far this year, it has helped first responders stay connected during nearly 75 emergencies, including wildfires, floods, a tropical storm turned hurricane and tornadoes, and search and rescue missions in remote locations.
“The support we received from FirstNet during the record rainfall and flooding earlier this year was second to none,” said Keenan Campbell, a situation unit leader at the Illinois Incident Management Team. “Having a FirstNet SatCOLT rapidly deployed and onsite to keep our command post connected to our broader team was an invaluable asset to our mission, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that I have a network that will be there when and where I need it.”
The FirstNet Authority said it has supported agencies at more than 100 planned events this year, including coast-to-coast Independence Day celebrations. It said First responders have also relied on the FirstNet network during music festivals, sporting events and speaker rallies for public officials.
When emergencies strike, it also is critical that 911 call centers have the tools they need to maintain operations, according to the federal agency. To help 911 communicators stay connected during potential service-impacting situations, 911 call centers can now use the FirstNet network as a wireless backup solution to AT&T ESInet, which the agency described as a smarter, modernized 911 call-routing service.
The backup capability is enabled by AT&T Private Mobile Connection, which connects AT&T ESInet with the FirstNet network for added redundancy. If AT&T ESInet detects a failure in the primary connection to the public safety answering point (PSAP), emergency calls will be automatically routed over the FirstNet network. Keeping PSAPs connected during critical times helps improve emergency response and enables 911 communicators to provide seamless service to the community until the primary connection is restored, according to the FirstNet Authority.
Situational Awareness, Security
The FirstNet Authority said that the FirstNet communications platform goes beyond delivering reliable and redundant connectivity to public safety. It builds on that connectivity with innovative apps that can cost-effectively transform capabilities, drive efficiencies, enhance situational awareness and increase security. New apps launched in and coming to the FirstNet App Catalog — created specifically for public safety — include:
FirstNet Assist: Now FirstNet-certified and included in the FirstNet App Catalog, this solution allows public safety support personnel in the field to see active events and incidents within a 50-mile radius and request device uplift. This app also provides all users with direct access to dedicated FirstNet Care specialists specially trained to help first responders and performs device diagnostics.
Response for FirstNet: This low-cost, simple-to-use situational awareness platform now provides new features to FirstNet subscribers, such as live location, media sharing and team mobilization, to support day-to-day and emergency operations.
FirstNet Cybersecurity Awareness: This app will provide public safety agencies with easy-to-use educational materials that help keep cybersecurity top of mind. The app will also include training videos that simply break down cybersecurity concerns like social engineering, phishing and spoofing, so first responders have the tools they need to stay cyber-aware and cyber-safe.
“As we planned for FirstNet, we worked hand-in-hand with public safety across the nation to help us design a network to meet their critical communications needs,” said Jeff Bratcher, chief technology and operations officer at the FirstNet Authority. “We are pleased with the progress AT&T continues to make to fulfill the promise of FirstNet, delivering the tools public safety asked for to help with their lifesaving mission. This is public safety’s network, and we will continue to engage with them to advance their network, FirstNet, for years to come.”
The FirstNet network is a dedicated, nationwide communications platform. According to the FirstNet Authority, it is bringing public safety communications into the 21st century with new, innovative capabilities to strengthen first responders’ incident response. It helps them to connect with critical information they need every day and during emergencies.
Source: the FirstNet Authority.