FirstNet, a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety, has increased its subscriber base by 70% since late October 2018. Moreover, the number of public safety agencies using FirstNet has jumped almost 46% during the same period.
FirstNet now has 425,000 subscribers from more than 5,250 public safety agencies. In late October, the company said it had more than 250,000 subscribers from more than 3,600 agencies across the country.
FirstNet and AT&T, which was awarded a $6.5 billion contract from the federal government to build out the network, say they’ve expanded the LTE coverage area for the public safety communications platform by more than 50,000 square miles nationwide, covering an additional 1 million people.
“The demand for data has been on a nonstop, upward trajectory for years,” Marachel Knight, senior vice president at AT&T, said in a prepared statement. “Our ongoing work to launch new sites and build out our LTE network is delivering increased network speeds and capacity. By the end of this year, we expect our network capacity to increase by 50% since the end of 2017 while simultaneously laying the foundation for a 5G future.”
The FirstNet contract also awarded AT&T 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum, which has been deployed in more than 500 markets to date, according to FirstNet, an agency that was created through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. AT&T also says it is months ahead of schedule in achieving coverage targets.
“We’re moving fast to bring the unique features and benefits of FirstNet to life. We’re less than a year into the Band 14 build and months ahead of schedule,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president of FirstNet at AT&T, said in a prepared statement. “We already cover more than 40% of our total FirstNet Band 14 rural and nonrural coverage targets. That’s about a 10% jump in the FirstNet square miles covered since last October.”
Rural coverage has reached the Black Hills of South Dakota, the farming communities of Tulare County, California, and tribal lands within the Chickasaw Nation in south-central Oklahoma. Major metropolitan areas like Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco have all received coverage and capacity boosts via Band 14 deployments, according to FirstNet.
“With FirstNet, AT&T is focused on delivering a network that’s second to none, and the quick progress they’ve made with their accelerated build shows that they’re taking this mission seriously,” Roger Entner, founder and analyst at Recon Analytics, said in a prepared statement.
FirstNet Acting CEO Edward Parkinson says the agency and AT&T will expand coverage and capacity further this year. “With the Band 14 buildout validated thus far, we’re pleased that more first responders in rural and urban areas have even more access to the connectivity and modern communications tools they need,” he said in a prepared statement.
In 2017, AT&T was awarded a contract to build out the FirstNet network during the next four years and the carrier is expected to spend upwards of $40 billion over the 25-year contract to deploy, operate and maintain the network.
Editor's Note - Jan. 10, 2018: This article has been updated to correct a mathematical error regarding the percentage increase in FirstNet’s subscriber base and the number of public safety agencies it serves.