FirstNet’s MCPTT Launch Pushed Back to 2020, 75% of Band 14 Rolled Out
Tuesday, December 03, 2019 | Comments
AT&T pushed back the launch of mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) services on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) network, originally scheduled to launch by the end of 2019, until early next year.

AT&T said it will launch FirstNet Push-to-Talk, “a standards-compliant, mission-centric solution purpose-built for public safety,” in early 2020. The PTT service is “designed to further advance first responders’ communications capabilities with reliable, high-performance calling.”

“We were initially targeting a late 2019 launch, but since we are building this solution from the ground up, we felt it was important to take a little more time to make sure we delivered an excellent end-to-end experience for public safety at launch, pulling in feedback from users in the controlled introduction,” said an AT&T spokesperson. “We are still tracking ahead of our contractual commitments for the launch of this solution.”

AT&T is still planning to offer two carrier-integrated options for public safety, the first being the Kodiak PTT offering from Motorola Solutions. The second vendor has been selected through a request for proposals (RFP) process but has not yet been named.

An AT&T executive hinted at the MCPTT delay in November during an investor conference.

In addition, AT&T said more than 10,000 public-safety agencies and organizations across the country have subscribed to FirstNet, and more than 1 million FirstNet connections are in service.

“Since its launch, FirstNet has created a dedicated marketplace for public-safety broadband communications that never existed before, and we are only scratching the surface on the innovations this network is driving,” said FirstNet Executive Director Edward Parkinson. “Public safety’s critical communications needs will always be at the center of their network, and we are proud to support more than 10,000 agencies using more than 1 million FirstNet connections across the country. We look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with public safety and AT&T as we head into a new year of network expansion and growth.”

Using all AT&T Long Term Evolution (LTE) bands, FirstNet covers more than 99% of the U.S. population, AT&T said. 700 MHz band 14 spectrum is deployed in more than 675 markets, and more than 75% of band 14 nationwide coverage is completed. The band 14 coverage includes every major city from coast to coast, rural towns such as Hempstead, Arkansas; Lincoln, New Mexico; and Maury, Tennessee; as well as tribal areas such as White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, where a new site was announced last month.

AT&T also said it has more than 100 FirstNet Ready devices. FirstNet Ready devices support access to band 14. Last month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is charged with developing a list of devices that meet standards for access to the FirstNet network, released a list of 161 certified devices for the FirstNet network.

The FirstNet App Catalog now includes 100 approved apps. For example, a public-safety agency in Massachusetts is using FirstNet Listed application Vizsafe to enhance situational awareness for its hazardous materials teams. Learn more about Vizsafe and the additional apps in the FirstNet App Catalog webinar series.

“Using Vizsafe on FirstNet, the agency can now broadcast and view live video streams from first responders, track near real-time user location on the front lines and share insights with command staff to improve decision-making and streamline response,” said Peter Mottur, CEO of Vizsafe.

FirstNet Blimp
FirstNet One is the 76th deployable network asset to join the nationwide FirstNet fleet. AT&T said the aerostat reduces the need for multiple ground-based portable cell sites, freeing those dedicated assets to be used by other agencies nationwide.

The blimp can be used during large-scale, catastrophic events. The aerostat can fly up to 1,000 feet, potentially providing more than two times the coverage area compared with other deployable solutions such as satellite cells on wheels and flying cells on wings (COWs). FirstNet One is fully operational in windspeeds up to 50 miles per house (mph) and is capable of withstanding windspeeds up to 70 mph. The blimp can stay aloft for about two weeks before needing additional helium top-off and is tethered to a trailer to provide either satellite or wireline backhaul.

The aerostat was recently tested in Tuskegee, Alabama. Flight testing established its initial coverage area, airworthiness, payload lift potential, avionics and flight controls, and performance of the power and data transmission lines connecting to the FirstNet network core. Operational methods, procedures and safety standards required to deploy, launch, operate and recover the asset in a public-safety incident response scenario were also tested.

“Testing FirstNet One at the historically significant Sharpe Field once again broke new ground for the safety and protection of our country,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. “With the launch of public safety’s aerostat, I look forward to seeing how FirstNet will continue to take the communications capabilities of our nation’s first responders to the next level.”

The blimp will be available 24/7 at no additional charge to FirstNet subscribers for potential use during major incidents. The FirstNet team at AT&T, led by former first responders, will determine the appropriate asset to send — or resolution — based on the situation.

“Witnessing the FirstNet One aerostat airborne test was fascinating and being onsite to see the operations and speak with the team reinforced the value of the FirstNet communications platform," said Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings. “This FirstNet relationship is critical to exploring innovative and creative communication capabilities.”

So far this year, public safety has turned to FirstNet deployable network assets for additional support during more than 450 emergencies and planned events. For example, Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue called on the FirstNet team to support a large-scale training drill across numerous agencies spanning multiple jurisdictions. Set in a mountainous region, the FirstNet flying COW was deployed, making its debut flight to support participating first responders.

"In remote areas of the county, communications have always been a challenge,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue Technical Rescue Coordinator Rusty Wackermann. “And if we can’t communicate, we can’t see if our teams are safe or obtain the latest rescue status from those in the field. FirstNet is solving for this, giving us on-demand access to the connectivity we need when our community needs us the most."

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