FirstNet Covers 2.61M Square Miles, Counts 1.2M Connections
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network now covers more than 2.61 million square miles of the nation, said AT&T, the contractor deploying the network. More than 11,000 public-safety agencies and organizations subscribe to FirstNet, accounting for more than 1.2 million connections nationwide.

In 2019, AT&T said it added 120,000 square miles of coverage. An infographic said the carrier had more than 75% of band 14 coverage completed, along with more than 700 markets with band 14 spectrum. The carrier needs 60% band 14 coverage to meet a March deadline and receive the next milestone payment from FirstNet. A January Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said AT&T is also on track to meet its first adoption milestone by its end-March deadline, although no specific figures were cited.

"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Sambar, executive vice president, technology and operations, AT&T. "Despite what Verizon claims with their grossly outdated statistics, the truth is we added significantly more coverage than any other wireless provider last year, making our total coverage difference nearly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."

The FirstNet network build is boosting overall network capacity and accelerating coverage expansion. Public-safety subscribers receive dedicated access when they need it, always-on priority and pre-emption, and 700 MHz band 14 spectrum.

The carrier highlighted data from Ookla showing quarterly average download speeds for FirstNet at 45.8 Megabits per second (Mbps) in the fourth quarter of 2019, followed by AT&T at 43.2 Mbps, Sprint at 39.5 Mbps, Verizon at 37.3 Mbps and T-Mobile USA at 36 Mbps on all devices.

During the Super Bowl in Miami earlier this month, fans at the game broke data records, but FirstNet subscribers didn't have to compete with attendees' voice and data traffic. Public safety used almost four times as much data per user compared with fans, with traffic reaching its peak as tailgaters began to enter the stadium area. First responders conducted more than 30,000 data sessions and roughly 3,000 calls during the game.

AT&T expanded its agency-owned deployable program to include a Compact Rapid Deployable (CRD). This small portable cell site requires only one person to setup and deploy in the field 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.

Separately, FirstNet, built with AT&T, is teaming with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for the 2020 Officer Safety & Wellness Symposium in Miami, Feb. 27-29.

Addressing and providing resources that focus on mental health, financial literacy, nutritional needs, sleep deprivation and injury reduction to officers across the country is a high priority for the IACP. AT&T said the technology advancements made possible by FirstNet significantly improve officer communications and safety and increase their situational awareness. Ultimately this aids officers with reliable, modern communications tools needed to keep them safe and perform at their best.

"We want to do our part to help keep officers safe and well for years to come," said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. "So, we're getting squarely behind public safety and the importance of wellness for every officer and the communities they serve. Our nation's first responders deserve solutions to this critical issue, so we are committing our support and resources to help."

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