It took four days for the restoration of cell service, internet and law enforcement communications, including FirstNet, across a multistate region after the Nashville bombing across from the AT&T central office facility.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which has been working closely with AT&T and local, state, and federal officials, said that the FirstNet network infrastructure was not initially impacted by the explosion. However, after temporary battery power was exhausted, two local water mains that were destroyed in the blast flooded backup power generators with three feet of water.
“AT&T recovery resources and the dedicated fleet of FirstNet deployable network assets came online to ensure connectivity for FirstNet users,” a FirstNet press release reads. “FirstNet deployable assets arrived on the scene less than five hours after the blast. Local FirstNet services were restored within four hours after batteries were exhausted, supporting multiple agencies that were responding to the events on the ground.”
However, police, 911 call centers, retail outlets and AT&T residential user communications were affected in large portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama for several days.
FirstNet Authority Board Chair Tip Osterthaler said the objective to provide connectivity to first responders regardless of circumstances places a heavy burden on the authority and AT&T. FirstNet has initiated an in-depth review of how the network performed during the attack.
“As we absorb the lessons learned from this attack, we will adjust our risk management and investment strategies as appropriate to deal with the changing threat environment,” Osterthaler said. “We are thankful that the only fatality from the bomb was apparently the bomber, and we are also thankful for the first responders, utility crews, and AT&T personnel who rushed to the scene on Christmas morning in order to protect lives and property and restore services.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who represents Nashville, called for congressional hearings on reducing telecom vulnerabilities, according to the Associated Press.
“We are all too dependent on phone, cellphone, TV and internet to have outages for any reason,” he said in an emailed statement. The U.S. “needs to harden our telecom facilities so we have greater redundancy and reliability,” he added.
Now covering more than 2.61 million square miles of the nation, we are aggressively expanding the LTE coverage area for the AT&T* network and FirstNet public safety communications platform. This means more first responders and the communities they serve – rural, urban and tribal – are gaining access to the critical communications capabilities they need.
“We’ve been on a mission for some time now to make AT&T’s network not only the nation’s fastest and most reliable, but the nation’s largest,” said Chris Sambar, executive vice president, technology and operations, AT&T. “Despite what Verizon claims with their grossly outdated statistics, the truth is we added significantly more coverage than any other wireless provider last year – making our total coverage difference nearly imperceptible. And we’re on target to add more coverage than them again this year. By expanding our wireless coverage footprint, we’re laying the foundation for 5G, and we’re bringing our nation’s first responders the most expansive dedicated platform with innovative capabilities to strengthen their incident response wherever their mission takes them.”
Last year alone, we added 120,000+ square miles. That’s more than twice the coverage growth than the previous year, or an area equal to the entire state of New Mexico.
FirstNet: The Fastest Network Experience
Our ongoing FirstNet network build is boosting overall network capacity and accelerating coverage expansion. It’s also providing public safety with dedicated access when they need it, unique benefits like always-onpriority and preemption, and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. These advanced capabilities enabled FirstNet to perform faster than any commercial network1 in 2019 and bring its subscribers the unthrottled connectivity they need.
“FirstNet isn’t just any network, it is public safety’s communications highway,” said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “As more and more public safety agencies turn to FirstNet for their communication needs – from massive events to emergency situations like wildfires and hurricanes – we remain steadfast in our commitment to aggressively expand the network and the innovative solutions first responders depend on. And this is only the beginning.”
For example, during pro football’s championship game in Miami, fans broke data records while cheering on their team. But that didn’t hinder first responders using FirstNet. With the dedicated FirstNet network core, public safety’s emergency communications didn’t have to compete with attendees’ voice and data traffic – it came first.
In fact, public safety used almost 4 times as much data per user compared to fans, with traffic reaching its peak as tailgaters began to enter the stadium area. First responders conducted over 30,000 data sessions and roughly 3,000 calls during the Big Game. That’s like streaming more than 100 hours of high-definition video without interference or interruption from fan selfies and social posts.
Leading the Way in the Public Safety Solutions Industry
With more than 11,000 public safety agencies and organizations subscribed to FirstNet, accounting for over 1.2 million connections nationwide, first responders and those critical to their response continue to turn to their network for the purpose-built tools they need for their life-saving missions.
FirstNet’s mission-centric design and unparalleled capabilities led to AT&T being named the public safety company of the year by Frost & Sullivan. According to the report, “AT&T is at the forefront for providing industry-leading public safety solutions that modernize public safety communications and transform emergency reporting and response. By leveraging proven experience and technological know-how in developing innovative public safety solutions, AT&T outpaces its competitors and maintains a distinguished reputation among customers.”
We’re bringing new cost-effective solutions to better equip agencies and provide enhanced situational awareness no matter where their mission takes them. We expanded our agency-owned deployable program to include a Compact Rapid Deployable (CRD). This smaller portable cell site is easy to deploy in the field, requiring only 1 person to setup and creates an area of LTE and Wi-Fi coverage.
“FirstNet is spurring innovation that will help save lives, and we are thrilled to see the network continue to grow to reach more communities and responders that serve them across the country,” said FirstNet Authority Acting CEO Edward Parkinson. “AT&T’s recognition as the public safety company of the year is a testament to their ongoing dedication to serving America’s first responders. We look forward to another year of FirstNet expansion with AT&T and the public safety community.”
FirstNet is the nationwide public safety communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders. Using all AT&T LTE bands, FirstNet already covers over 99% of the U.S. population today. It is built in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). This helps to ensure that the FirstNet communications platform and service offerings meet the short- and long-term needs of the public safety community.
1Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q4 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.
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.
Public safety personnel across the country continue to turn to FirstNet to advance their routine and emergency responses. Nearly 9,000 public safety agencies and organizations have subscribed to FirstNet, accounting for over 750,000 connections in service. And the numbers are growing daily.
The FirstNet communications platform – built with AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – offers first responders with a purpose-built experience.
For the second consecutive quarter, FirstNet achieved faster overall network speeds than any of commercial networks.
These results come as the number of markets with the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum nears 650. We’re moving quickly with about 65 percent of our nationwide coverage targets completed well ahead of schedule. The more we roll out Band 14 across the country, the more we’re able to provide first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it. This helps them reliably connect to critical information, communicate and coordinate.
And in the coming months, FirstNet subscribers will receive another boost in connectivity. AT&T and Assured Wireless Corporation are working together to develop 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 using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum.
As a matter of course, HPUE could significantly increase the public safety’s coverage area. For urban and suburban responders, this will help solve the common challenge of indoor coverage. The stronger signal will better assist those connecting from hard-to-reach places like basements, elevators, stairwells and parking garages, helping first responders communicate inside and out.