AT&T touted FirstNet’s progress, saying the network has “well-surpassed” half a million connections, and has expanded coverage and capacity in more than 600 markets across the U.S.
FirstNet, a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety, now has more than 600,000 device connections being used by more than 7,250 public safety agencies, AT&T said. Agencies such as the AAA Ambulance Service, American Medical Response, Chicago Police Department, Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Seattle Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard all recently have joined the network.
The police department in Anchorage, Alaska, where an earthquake occurred last year, has also recently joined the network. “When the shaking stopped, I relied on my FirstNet phone to begin our response to the disaster,” Justin Doll, Anchorage Police Chief, said in a statement. “Where others had trouble connecting due to network congestion, FirstNet gave us the uninterrupted ability to coordinate.”
AT&T, which was awarded a $6.5 billion contract from the federal government to build out the network, claims FirstNet “consistently performs over 25% faster than any commercial network.” The network has grown steadily since its launch in 2018. FirstNet subscribers jumped 70% between October 2018 and January 2019. AT&T said that nearly 50% of FirstNet’s total connections are new subscribers, and did not migrate from AT&T.
AT&T has added three Flying Cells on Wings (COWs) to its FirstNet deployable program. COWs are a pair of tethered drones and a trailer for transport that is equipped with a satellite dish and fiber connections.The COWs are able to withstand wind speeds up to 25 miles per hour and can reach heights of up to 400 feet. AT&T said the COWs are designed for use in emergency response situations where the ground terrain makes connectivity difficult, such as in mountainous areas for wildfires.
“Our team remains focused on delivering the modern capabilities, coverage and capacity needed to strengthen first responders’ communications nationwide,” said Chris Sambar, SVP of FirstNet at AT&T, in a statement. “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% of our total nationwide coverage targets.”
The carrier also said it has expanded its 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum deployments to more than 600 markets. The COWs will be upgraded with Band 14 in the second half of 2019, AT&T said.