FirstNet Highlights Continued Coverage Expansion
Wednesday, July 15, 2020 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) highlighted more coverage buildouts, noting the network already covers more than 99% of the U.S. population. In areas where coverage already exists, band 14 spectrum is providing more capacity. Band 14 has been deployed on existing cell sites in more than 700 markets nationwide.

AT&T is also launching new FirstNet cell sites across the country to expand rural and remote coverage, including areas where emergency responses have been previously challenged by a lack of connectivity.

New Jersey is one of those areas. Six new FirstNet cell sites launched with two sites in Bergen County. New sites in Gloucester, Monmouth, Passaic and Sussex counties also launched.

“New Jersey’s first responders deserve fast, reliable and dedicated coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents,” said Charlene Brown, president, AT&T New Jersey. “And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting. We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public-safety mission and bring the state’s first responders — and residents — greater access to the connectivity they need. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations.”

AT&T also touted FirstNet’s work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Northeast. Devices were provided to Yale New Haven Medical Centers, SouthShore Hospital, the city of Boston, Boston Hope Field Hospital and many other COVID-19 care facilities throughout New England.

In Bar Harbor, Maine, FirstNet deployed a mobile satellite cell tower to Mount Desert Island Hospital to maintain emergency communications during the influx of COVID-19 patients.

“Serving an island community is challenging, within the first few days of the COVID-19 lockdown, AT&T reached out to offer support,” said Will Houston, manager of IT security at Mount Desert Island Hospital. “When we reported that our emergency department had poor to no cellular signal, the FirstNet team went into action. Within days we received a portable tower, repeaters and a superb cell signal in our emergency room.”

At Yale University in Connecticut, FirstNet deployed a mobile satellite cell tower to help ensure reliable communications for a pop-up testing site and nearby medical centers during the crisis. The state governments of Vermont and New Hampshire and the State of Rhode Island Emergency Management activated hundreds of additional FirstNet Ready devices for their COVID-19 response.

“Our FirstNet mobile system and communications response system is allowing better connectivity with broadband and cellular service in those areas that typically had worse service,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu during a COVID-19 press conference.

“The City of Chelsea had one of the largest concentrations of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Steve Staffier, director of city of Chelsea emergency management/communications. “We turned to FirstNet to provide connectivity at the command post at our COVID-19 quarantine shelter site. FirstNet was quick to deliver the devices I needed to connect my team.”

The Milton (New Hampshire) Fire Department was able to locate the exact location of a forest fire in Pineland Park March 31, during the height of the pandemic, using a Strafford County Sheriff’s drone on FirstNet.

“Utilizing the drone with FirstNet we were able to quickly and accurately pinpoint where the fire was and dispatch units to the appropriate locations to quickly bring the fire under control,” said Capt. Justin Bellen, Milton Fire Department. “This part of Milton has marginal coverage, but we were able to stream video to everyone who needed it without any issues. Strafford County (New Hampshire) Sheriff has been on FirstNet for over a year, not only do they use it for the drone, but all of their phones, tablets and laptops are on FirstNet as well. We had multiple supervisors in the county on FirstNet devices watching the operation live while it was ongoing.”

In Brookline, Massachusetts, police officers responded to a call in a building and lost radio communications. Dispatch was trying to update the officers with additional information, but because of their location, they were unable to communicate with dispatch or other responding units. A sergeant arrived on the scene with his FirstNet device with push to talk (PTT) and was able to communicate with dispatch using FirstNet and update the officers on the scene who could not communicate over the portable radios.

In Ashland, Massachusetts, a commuter train collided with an automobile causing a prolonged delay and hundreds of commuters to take to their cellphones. The police chief was unable to provide updates to the town manager over his cellphone due to network congestion. The next day, Ashland began the process of deploying FirstNet devices.

“We are happy we made the change to FirstNet,” said Susan Robie, executive assistant, town of Ashland.

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