AT&T Adds New FirstNet Sites to Enhance Northeast Coverage
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | Comments
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and state officials announced a spate of coverage enhancements to the public-safety broadband network in the Northeast. Maryland, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Hampshire all made FirstNet coverage-related announcements this week.

In Maryland, eight new cell sites were launched in Allegany, Calvert, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Wicomico counties. This is the latest round of new FirstNet sites to be publicly announced following FirstNet sites announced in Baltimore and Tilghman Island last year.

“I am excited to see FirstNet expanding coverage and tower sites in the state of Maryland,” said Pete Landon, director, Maryland Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. “As a retired lieutenant colonel of Maryland State Police, and still an end user, I continue to work with allied law enforcement agencies and first responders across the state. Given Maryland’s diverse geography, from beaches to mountains and the vast Chesapeake Bay, FirstNet’s innovative technology brings us to a whole new level of connectivity and reliability.”

These sites were identified by state and public-safety stakeholders as priority locations. The sites were constructed using band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. AT&T has also deployed band 14 on sites in communities across Maryland.

AT&T launched two new, purpose-built cell sites in Vermont one in North Bennington and one in West Bridgewater. AT&T also said it added an additional 62 cell sites in 52 towns to boost its commercial service in the state.

“We’ve always known improved wireless connectivity and cell coverage are critical to the success of our students, businesses and first responders, but it has become even more evident throughout this pandemic,” said Gov. Phil Scott. ‘”Closing the digital divide between Vermont communities is more important than ever before, and we appreciate AT&T’s partnership in these efforts.”

In Pennsylvania, AT&T launched new FirstNet sites in Huntingdon, Lycoming and Sullivan counties. This is the latest group of FirstNet sites to be publicly announced in Pennsylvania since December 2019 when AT&T said a new, purpose-built site was turned on in Clinton County.

“FirstNet has opened up a new level of data transmission service for the public-safety world,” said Rich Caschera, North Central Regional Task Force. “Loyalsock Volunteer Fire Company No.1 enjoys the data speeds and call pre-emption service in the region’s command unit as well as our tablet used in our EMS and fire units. We enjoy a great working relationship with the FirstNet Pennsylvania State Interop Team and the FirstNet support team at AT&T. We saved on costs and gained service – a win.”

Eight new FirstNet cell sites have launched in three communities in Delaware. In Kent County, a new site in Kenton provides coverage to the town and helps fill the gap between Pearsons Corner and Cheswold. A new site in Felton provides coverage in rural Delaware, covering Sandtown, Petersburg and Route 12 between Felton and the Delaware/Maryland border. In New Castle County, a new site in Newark improves coverage at the University of Delaware Science & Technology building, as well as boosts capacity at athletic facilities along South College Avenue. A new site in Townsend improves coverage around scenic Highway 9 and Saw Mill Branch Road. Finally, in Sussex County, a new site in Milford improves coverage in and around downtown Milford. A new site in Milton (adjacent to Dogfish Head Brewery) boosts coverage for the retail business area along Main Street and residential homes in the downtown area of Milton. A new site in Dagsboro enhances coverage along Routes 113 and 26 and in downtown Dagsboro, and a new site in Millsboro improves coverage along Routes 24 and 23.

“I am pleased to see FirstNet staying true to its promise of expanding coverage in our area with the new site builds,” said Jay Jones, president, Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association. “As a third-generation firefighter, this technology and service brings us to a whole new level of fire suppression. We’ve been able to get reliable coverage in areas where we’ve previously struggled. With 60 volunteer fire companies in the state, knowing our members can easily subscribe to public safety’s network, it’s changing the game for us.”

John T. Stevens, statewide interoperability coordinator (SWIC) and single point of contact (SPOC) for FirstNet in New Hampshire, said FirstNet and AT&T collaborated to provide support to New Hampshire by deploying on-site deployable capability while providing AT&T phones to essential and critical employees assigned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Although postponed due to the pandemic, the New Hampshire State Police will test 40 Sonim Technologies devices with analytics collected through NetMotion this summer to have a better understanding of AT&T statewide coverage.

The statewide interoperability executive committee (SIEC) and its working groups continue to play a major role in the development of LTE and LMR protocols that provide a wider expansion of interoperable connectivity. The state officials are addressing issues as promotion of the “HBANK” for incident communications on land and water, negotiating with FirstNet and AT&T regarding alternative tower sites, and establishing policy and procedure for interoperable channel usage and deployable assets.

“The SIEC remains that one group across all disciplines and jurisdictions that has a unilateral voice to enhance next-generation communication technology statewide,” Stevens said in a newsletter update.

The state is in a holding pattern for Technical Assistance (TA) programs offered this year through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office of Emergency Communications (ECD) regarding the communications unit technician (COMT), communications unit leader (COML) and communications unit (COMU) exercise, along with LTE/LMR coverage testing training and program opportunities. Travel restrictions and quarantine remain the main issues under safety protocols put in place because of the pandemic.

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Comments
On 7/1/20, John Boyd said:
Will the new sites also allow interoperability between existing LMR public-safety users or will the new sites just fill in coverage holes in the existing AT&T sites? Lots of buzz about strengthening the infrastructure but little buzz about LMR. Just thinking out loud.


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