AT&T’s FirstNet responded to 750 requests in 2020

AT&T said that its public safety network FirstNet now covers more than 2.71 million square miles and supports more than 2 million connections.

The carrier added nearly 100,000 square miles to FirstNet in 2020. The network covers 99% of the U.S. population today, and more than 15,000 organizations have subscribed to FirstNet.

AT&T says there were more than 750 requests for FirstNet from public safety agencies in 2020.

Recent agencies to sign on to FirstNet include the Los Angeles Police Department and the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The City of Cambridge is using FirstNet for its critical fire, police and EMS assets. “The drive from FirstNet to consistently increase coverage has been impressive, especially as we work to combat COVID-19,” said Gerald Reardon, senior advisor for Cambridge Public Safety. “With our mobile task force constantly moving locations for testing sites and vaccination locations, FirstNet not only fits the bill, but is key to our missions’ success.”

Other prominent agencies that subscribe to FirstNet include the FBI and the U.S. Army.

RELATED: AT&T's Elbaz says the carrier plans to transition FirstNet to 5G

FirstNet uses the Band 14 spectrum set aside by the U.S. government specifically for FirstNet. “So far, we’ve surpassed 90% of our Band 14 coverage target – well ahead of schedule,” said AT&T in a statement today. 

AT&T also said the network takes advantage of the high-power user equipment (HPUE) solution, which is exclusively available on FirstNet using Band 14. This equipment is called FirstNet MegaRange, and its stronger signal is particularly helpful in areas where data connectivity is traditionally unreliable such as remote regions, rural areas, or metropolitan areas that have challenges with cellular signal penetration through buildings and underground parking structures.
And in terms of end-user devices, the FirstNet device and app ecosystem now has more than 210 FirstNet Ready devices and over 160 highly secure apps tested specifically for public safety’s use in the FirstNet App Catalog. 

What’s next?

AT&T is touting its FirstNet as a way to close the digital divide for public safety because “emergencies don’t know zip codes.”

Over 1,000 new sites were planned as part of the initial FirstNet expansion to connect rural, remote and tribal areas. And AT&T said more than 500 of these sites have already launched in places such as Appalachia, on tribal lands and in remote areas near national forests. The carrier is also working with rural telecom providers when it makes sense.

Redundant power

Over the Christmas holiday, a bomb exploded at an AT&T building in Nashville, Tennessee. The combination of the explosion and resulting water and fire damage took out a number of backup power generators, and the company had to scramble to re-establish power.

RELATED: AT&T’s building hit by Christmas bombing in Nashville

In 2021 the company is hyper alert to power issues, and it’s making sure it has plenty of redundant power for its FirstNet.

AT&T says that more than 98% of the population is covered by cell sites with permanent backup power solutions. “As we build new cell sites, we’re including fixed generators whenever possible and are committed to growing our fixed generator support on existing infrastructure,” said the company.