AT&T has expanded the FirstNet network — its sub-6 gigahertz low-band version of 5G designed for first responders — to 10 more U.S. cities: Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Knoxville, Tennessee; Phoenix; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Antonio.
The company disclosed that first responders in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 venues already have access to AT&T mmWave (5G+) spectrum. In a statement, AT&T said it expects to roll out additional 5G connectivity for FirstNet in more communities nationwide this year. Meanwhile, AT&T said it expects to offer the commercial version of its 5G+ connectivity in parts of more than 40 cities and 40 venues by the end of 2021.
“To increase the flexibility and resiliency of AT&T NextGen 9-1-1 services, AT&T ESInet is now integrated with the FirstNet network,” the statement reads. “By serving as an automatic wireless backup to connect to public safety answering points (PSAP), FirstNet enables the delivery of IP-based 9-1-1 call traffic through the AT&T Virtual Private Network (VPN).”
Since launching FirstNet MegaRange earlier this year — which is designed to significantly improve connectivity, especially at the edge of network coverage — AT&T said that public safety personnel have started experiencing MegaRange’s benefits as they respond to everyday emergencies and disasters. MegaRange is AT&T’s name for user equipment authorized under FCC rules to use as much as 1.2 watts of output power only on Band 14 spectrum, compared with 0.2 watts of power on other frequencies.
AT&T said that firefighters are using MegaRange to help combat this year’s record-breaking wildfire season. “For example, Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District in Oregon used MegaRange during their response to the Grandview Fire, which has burned just over 6,000 acres and threated hundreds of homes,” the statement reads. It said that the fire was in a notoriously difficult communications area (for both cellular and radio transmissions), and MegaRange enabled key personnel to provide live situational awareness to commanders via call, text and other FirstNet certified applications.
“Record-breaking wildfires and other natural disasters this year have disrupted businesses and forced families to leave their homes,” said Jason Porter, president, public sector and FirstNet, AT&T. “But as communities evacuate, our first responders run toward the danger. That’s why public safety has FirstNet. We’re providing reliable connectivity to first responders, and doing it the right way for their unique mission needs. From improving coverage with MegaRange to launching 5G on FirstNet in more areas across the country, we’re committed to being by public safety’s side no matter the emergency.”
According to AT&T, FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. “Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings,” the statement reads. “It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.”
To access 5G FirstNet, AT&T said that first responders need a FirstNet Ready 5G device, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G or the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G, which are now available for pre-order. “FirstNet subscribers need to pay no additional charge for 5G connectivity,” the statement reads. “Individual verified first responders not already on FirstNet can sign up online or at the more than 5,000 AT&T retail stores across the country.”
Today, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee; Marc Pappas, director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA); and representatives of the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority joined AT&T representatives at the RIEMA Readiness Center to unveil new FirstNet equipment and technology for Rhode Island first responders.
According to the FirstNet Authority, the FirstNet broadband wireless network is the only nationwide network built with and for America’s first responders.
As part of the state’s plan when opting into FirstNet, AT&T has delivered two compact rapid deployables (CRDs) to RIEMA. Rhode Island is the first state to receive CRDs as a part of the state’s decision to advance its public safety broadband communications with FirstNet, according to the agency.
“Rhode Island is honored to be the first state to have the compact rapid deployables,” Pappas said. “The capability to provide a reliable communication service in a moment’s notice is extraordinary. The CRDs’ unmatched technology will increase Rhode Island’s position of readiness for response and recovery operations and provide secure and dependable cellular and Wi-Fi service when connectivity is limited.”
As trailer-mounted mobile units, CRDs provide FirstNet cellular and Wi-Fi coverage via satellite connectivity to first responders wherever their mission takes them, a statement from the FirstNet Authority reads. It said that the assets are owned and operated by RIEMA and were provided at no cost to the state.
“The CRDs can be utilized in response to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, or deployed in support of large-scale events or other public safety emergencies,” the agency’s statement reads. “They are best for use in rural or remote areas, as well as in areas where communications may temporarily be unavailable. CRDs can be set up by a single person in a matter of minutes.”
According to the Authority, the FirstNet network is the most important wireless network in the country, because it serves first responders and public safety community. To help ensure AT&T and the FirstNet Authority are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the agency said that the FirstNet network build is guided by feedback from state and public safety officials. The feedback, the agency said, helps Rhode Island’s first responders connect to the critical information they need every day, for every emergency.
“Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings, the agency’s statement reads. “It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.”
The FirstNet Authority said that, with more than 17,000 public safety agencies and organizations, accounting for more than 2.5 million connections nationwide, the FirstNet network is providing first responders with dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it; benefits like always-on priority; and preemption and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. “These advanced capabilities help emergency management, fire, EMS and law enforcement save lives and protect their communities,” the agency said.
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.