The FirstNet communications platform, built with AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), continues to gain rapid momentum as it brings advanced capabilities to first responders across the country. It has well surpassed the half-million mark, with more than 600,000 device connections being used by more than 7,250 public safety agencies. It continues to expand the coverage, capacity and capability available to first responders, giving public safety agencies a network experience that consistently performs over 25 percent faster than any commercial network, according to an AT&T analysis of Ookla Speedtest Intelligence data average download speeds for the first quarter of 2019.
Transforming Public Safety Communications
Recent agencies to subscribe to FirstNet include AAA Ambulance Service, American Medical Response, Anchorage Police Department, Chicago Police Department, Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Seattle Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Last year’s 7.0 earthquake really brought the significance of the FirstNet system to light,” said Justin Doll, the Anchorage, Alaska, police chief. “When the shaking stopped, I relied on my FirstNet phone to begin our response to the disaster. Where others had trouble connecting due to network congestion, FirstNet gave us the uninterrupted ability to coordinate our tireless efforts to keep the citizens of Anchorage safe.”
A majority of agencies and nearly 50 percent of FirstNet’s total connections are new subscribers (not AT&T migrations), and that mix continues to shift. Since January 2019, most of the FirstNet connections added are new subscribers to AT&T. This underscores the role FirstNet is playing to expand the public safety community’s adoption of wireless capabilities.
Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said his department is always looking for new ways to be innovative in the fire service. “FirstNet is highly beneficial to the first responder community and will improve our communications during and following a major disaster, such as an earthquake,” he said. “This system provides firefighters with a tool to communicate with one another, without the worry of congestion issues.”
FirstNet is for all public safety agencies: career and volunteer, urban, rural or tribal. AT&T launched the FirstNet digital signup portal to help qualified first responders gain access to FirstNet service. Individual first responders can now subscribe online at virtually any time, from anywhere.
Reid Vaughan, executive director of the Alabama Firefighters Association, said that FirstNet is a game-changer for first responders, from volunteer firefighters in the rural part of Alabama to the emergency medical technicians in more populous metro areas.
Extending Connectivity to New Communities
To better serve public safety agencies, we continue to extend the reach of the FirstNet communications platform. Band 14 spectrum has been deployed in more than 600 markets, as defined by FCC cellular market areas, further giving FirstNet the ability to reach agencies large and small, urban, rural and tribal with the connectivity and modern communications tools they need.
Elmore County (Idaho) Sheriff Mike Hollinshead said that rural Idaho presents significant challenges in terms of emergency communications coverage and interoperability. “FirstNet is addressing our challenges of coverage and providing state of the art capabilities needed to ensure the safety of the public and our law enforcement officers,” he said.
Andy Geske, the chief of information technology for AAA Ambulance Service, said that his company provides emergency ambulance services to 1.2 million residents across 16 counties in rural Mississippi. “Serving a large rural environment can present a number of challenges, but with FirstNet, communications are no longer one of those,” he said. “No matter where we go in or outside of the counties we cover, FirstNet has given us clear communications to coordinate and interoperate across our crews. When it comes to providing time-critical, life-saving services, FirstNet’s reliable, easy-to-access and persistent connection is vital. It’ll also enable us to advance our services forward; we expect capabilities like emergency telemedicine are now just around the corner.”
Enabling the Fastest Overall Experience for Public Safety
AT&T was recently recognized as the fastest wireless network in the nation, according to the first quarter 2019 results of tests taken with Speedtest as analyzed by Ookla. Since FirstNet subscribers have access to all AT&T LTE bands in addition to Band 14, these results translate to the network experience delivered by the public safety communications platform.
Even better, with the specialized capabilities enabled by the physically separate and dedicated FirstNet network core — such as priority and preemption — the FirstNet communications platform brings FirstNet subscribers the fastest overall experience. According to the results of tests taken with Speedtest as analyzed by AT&T, FirstNet consistently performs over 25 percent faster than any commercial network.
Chris Sambar, senior vice president of FirstNet at AT&T, said the company’s team remains focused on delivering the modern capabilities, coverage and capacity needed to strengthen first responders’ communications nationwide. “These results serve as another proof point to show the work is paying off for public safety,” he said. “We’ve entered the second year of our FirstNet Band 14 rollout with incredible momentum, already tracking well ahead of schedule, covering more than 50 percent of our total nationwide coverage targets. And we don’t intend to slow down as we keep delivering for those we rely on most.”
Taking FirstNet Connectivity to New Heights
Connectivity is going airborne. We’ve added three flying cells on wings (COWs) to the FirstNet deployable program. Each flying COW is comprised of two tethered drones and a trailer for transport that is equipped with a satellite dish and fiber connections. A flying COW can withstand light rain and wind speeds up to 25 miles per hour. It is able to reach heights of up to 400 feet, making it ideal for situations like wildfires and mountain rescue missions where the terrain may have previously made it difficult to maintain connectivity. Flying COWs are set to be outfitted with Band 14 in the second half of 2019.
With access to a nationwide fleet of deployable network assets that now includes the flying COWs, we can help equip FirstNet subscribers in the United States with the unthrottled connectivity they need, no matter the emergency. Like the other 72 assets, the FirstNet flying COWs are available at all times at no additional charge. The FirstNet team at AT&T will determine the appropriate asset to send — or resolution — based on the situation.
Ed Parkinson, the acting CEO of the FirstNet Authority, said that FirstNet is transforming the marketplace for public safety communications by delivering products, services and technologies that are making a difference for first responders. “We are excited about the progress of the network enhancements,” he said. “As we move forward, the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T will continue to work with public safety to advance and evolve the network platform to meet their ongoing communications needs.”
FirstNet is the public safety community’s dedicated, nationwide communications platform. It’s bringing public safety communications into the 21st century with new, innovative capabilities to strengthen first responders’ incident response. And it’s helping them connect to the critical information they need, every day and in every emergency.
FirstNet is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, an independent agency within the federal government. This helps ensure that the FirstNet communications platform and service offerings meet the short- and long-term needs of the public safety community.
April Ward is senior media relations advisor at the First Responder Network Authority.
First responders serving the Red Cliff Reservation in Wisconsin will soon be receiving a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site, located on tribal land north of the Legendary Waters Casino & Resort, is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in Wisconsin. The FirstNet network is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. Additionally, the new FirstNet site will give Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.
FirstNet is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. Backed by Congress, it is designed to modernize public safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need, every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is for all first responders, whether rural, tribal, urban or suburban. That’s why extending the FirstNet network in rural, tribal and remote parts of America is a top priority.
This site will be located near the Apostle Islands in the northern part of the reservation. Public safety stakeholders identified this location as a prime spot for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications.
“When emergencies happen, it is critical that tribal law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics have the reliable communications tools they need to keep the tribal members and surrounding community safe while also protecting visitors to tribal lands,” said Theron Rutyna, IT director for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “Breaking ground on this new cell site will not only support the public safety mission, but also it will pave the way for new technical capabilities and innovations, furthering economic opportunity and extending access to telehealth, online learning and overall communications during emergencies.”
The FirstNet network is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), an independent agency within the federal government. Beyond elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area.
It is being constructed using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum and other spectrum bands in the AT&T commercial spectrum portfolio. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands along with Band 14 when additional capacity is available.
Scott VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin, said that Wisconsin’s first responders need reliable coverage to help them effectively and efficiently address emergency situations.
“With FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. “We worked closely with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to successfully reach this stage of the network buildout, and I am happy to see this new site will increase the reach and reliability of the network to better support the Public Safety mission and bring first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need.”
As part of its government program, the FirstNet Authority consulted with Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to address the public safety communications needs on the reservation with regard to the deployment of FirstNet.
FirstNet Authority board member Paul R. Patrick said that the FirstNet Authority is honored to support the responders of the Red Cliff Reservation in their critical, lifesaving work. “We are working hand-in-hand with Red Cliff to understand their needs for the network and are pleased to see them leading the way on FirstNet as the first tribal community to break ground on a new FirstNet site,” he said. “We look forward to supporting tribal communities from across the country as they use FirstNet to help their first responders save lives and protect communities.”
April Ward is senior media relations advisor at the First Responder Network Authority.
Preston County, West Virginia’s first responders will soon be receiving a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site, located in Fellowsville, is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in West Virginia, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. The new FirstNet site will give Preston County’s first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.
The FirstNet network is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize public safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need, every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), an independent agency within the federal government.
To ensure AT&T is bringing coverage where first responders need it most, the FirstNet platform is being built with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. Based along Route 50, the Preston County site location was identified as a top spot where rural connectivity challenges exist in West Virginia. This critical infrastructure is being built to increase network coverage and capacity to better support first responders as they serve and protect residents and visitors in the area.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and the representatives of the FirstNet Authority joined AT&T at the Preston County 911 Center to celebrate the new FirstNet cell site groundbreaking.
“I have long advocated for rural broadband expansion to support our communities and first responders,” Capito said. “This and other sites still in the works will help further extend rural coverage in a way that benefits both public safety and the broader community. When emergencies happen, it is critical that our firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, 911 telecommunicators and emergency managers all have the communications tools they need to achieve their mission: keeping themselves, West Virginians and our communities safe.”
Preston County Commission President Dave Price said that he is pleased to see FirstNet staying true to its promise of expanding coverage in our area with the new site build. “As an early adopter of FirstNet, we’ve already experienced the early benefits that this dedicated system is bringing to West Virginia’s first responders,” said. “Plus, it’s paving the way for new capabilities and innovations in the way we handle emergencies and serve our community. It’s a true game-changer, and this site will help bring us the reliable connectivity needed to take advantage of it.”
This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in West Virginia following the governor’s decision to advance the state’s public safety broadband communications with FirstNet. The site is being constructed using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum and other spectrum bands in the AT&T commercial spectrum portfolio. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across West Virginia.
FirstNet Authority’s board chair, Edward Horowitz, said that FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for public safety, by public safety. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with West Virginia’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network,” he said. “This cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Preston County first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”
In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in Preston County. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands and Band 14 when additional capacity is available.
Andy Feeney, president of AT&T West Virginia, said that West Virginia’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. “With FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the Public Safety mission and bring the state’s first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need.”
The cell site isn’t the only connectivity enhancement Preston County’s Public Safety community will benefit from if they subscribe to FirstNet. A FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) was also on display during the cell site’s groundbreaking celebration.
The SatCOLT is a large, heavy-duty portable cell site that connects via satellite, not fiber. It’s part of the nationwide fleet of 75 deployable network assets available to FirstNet subscribers at no additional charge. Public safety agencies on FirstNet can request the equipment for added support during planned events or emergencies. The deployable network asset is designed to keep FirstNet subscribers connected to the information they need, no matter where their mission takes them, allowing first responders to make rescues, communicate and coordinate their emergency response or aid in recovery, even in the most remote parts of the state.
April Ward is senior media relations advisor at the First Responder Network Authority.
Less than a year into the official Band 14 build, AT&T has added more than 50,000+ square miles to the nationwide LTE network footprint of FirstNet. AT&T and FirstNet are months ahead of schedule with already meeting 40 percent of the total rural and urban coverage targets the end of this year. The capacity of the network has been increase by 50 percent since the end of 2017 while simultaneously laying the foundation for a 5G future.
The added LTE coverage is a result of the ongoing network build initiatives to expand and enhance connectivity for consumers and first responders in both urban and rural areas on both indoor and outdoor sites.
Some examples of rural areas that are underway and currently benefitting from the network build include: the Black Hills of South Dakota, where nearly half a million people gather for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the farming communities of Tulare County, California, and tribal lands within the Chickasaw Nation in south-central Oklahoma.
In areas where coverage already exists, FirstNet is making sure first responders have the capacity they need to get the job done without interruption. Now, urban and suburban centers in markets like Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, among others, are getting a Band 14 boost.
In total, AT&T and FirstNet have deployed Band 14 spectrum in more than 500 markets further increasing the platform’s coverage and capacity across the country. The deployment touches 425,000 subscribers, which is a 60 percent increase in the number of subscribers since the end of October 2018, spanning more than 5,250 public safety agencies on FirstNet to date.
Taoglas has begun to market it Taoglas Response line of LTE antennas specifically designed for FirstNet applications, including the GuardianX , an 11-in-1 MIMO low-profile, adhesive-mount antenna, as well as the Synergy 9-in-1 MIMO screw-mount antenna, that deliver the best in FirstNet Band 14, LTE, Wi-Fi and satellite connectivity.
Adoptions of FirstNet, a dedicated (Band 14) nationwide broadband network for first responders in the U.S., continue to grow, driving demand for next-generation antenna technology to deliver the reliability and coverage needed to enable this crucial connectivity system. Key FirstNet applications include computer-aided dispatch (vehicle location), EMS electronic patient care reporting, vehicle-mounted RMS/citations/scanners, video streaming, and drones deployed by emergency services using FirstNet LTE.
“We’ve seen in the last six to eight months the rapid deployment of FirstNet in all types of first responder vehicles,” said James Bergner, fleet operations manager at ProLogic ITS, a premier first responder installer. “An excellent performing antenna is critical to the network.”
The Taoglas Response antennas are designed to work with FirstNet-ready routers from Sierra Wireless and Cradlepoint, with more to be announced in the future from FirstNet operator AT&T. The GuardianX 11-in-1 is the first low-profile, adhesive-mount, high-performing antenna to accommodate the Sierra Wireless MG90, with antenna combinations of 6 Wi-Fi, 4 LTE and GNSS.
“FirstNet is the go-to technology in the first response market,” said Ed Denmark, chief of police, town of Harvard, Massachusetts. “The performance of the antennas will be vital for optimum communications.”