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AT&T Opens 5G+ to FirstNet Users, Upgrades Encryption

The company behind FirstNet is now offering its faster 5G+ option to public safety users in 38 cities. It’s also adding encryption from “tower to core” and creating a new coalition focused on health and wellness.

5G cellphone tower overlooking a city.
AT&T is opening up faster speeds for public safety agencies in 38 cities on the FirstNet network, as well as beefing up encryption and increasing its focus on the health of first responders.

The company has already rolled out 5G+ — which uses millimeter wave and is therefore faster than AT&T’s standard 5G offering, but harder to make work over large areas — to its customers in those 38 cities. Now AT&T is opening up that network for FirstNet users, and in its announcement the company stressed that it’s available in parts of those cities.

The 38 cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami and span 19 states. The company also listed 21 large venues, including airports, convention centers and sports arenas, that have 5G+ available for FirstNet users as well.

FirstNet subscribers will get access to 5G+ where it’s available without any extra charge.

Meanwhile, the company is also beginning an effort to offer “tower-to-core” encryption, meaning communications will be encrypted on every part of the FirstNet network rather than only along certain paths. That will require work on every cell tower that carries traffic on the network.

Tower-to-core encryption is already available in Houston and Cleveland, but AT&T expects to finish work on the entire nationwide network within the first quarter of 2022.

The company is also increasing its efforts to help address the stresses and dangers of public safety work with a new Health and Wellness Coalition, which includes participation from the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and more.

Details on the coalition’s work are scarce, but the company said its priorities include post-traumatic stress, suicide prevention and stress management.

“The coalition will be developing integrated approaches to raising awareness, identifying technical solutions and applications and local targeted areas to support these priorities,” a blog post from AT&T President of Public Sector and FirstNet Jason Porter reads.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.