FirstNet Reports Usage Milestones, New Technologies

The nationwide public safety broadband network reports more than 600,000 device connections, more than 7,250 user agencies, and performance numbers that are 25 percent faster than commercial networks.

by / May 6, 2019
Flickr/FirstNet

FirstNet, a nationwide communications platform for public safety agencies, has reached a new milestone: It now has tallied more than 600,000 device connections from the more than 7,250 agencies that use it.

These usage numbers are significant, because FirstNet has set out to be the first truly nationwide network that connects public safety agencies. The more agencies that sign up and use FirstNet, the stronger it becomes. This new milestone marks continued growth for a platform that managed to register all 50 states just shy of the deadline it set for doing so in 2017.

FirstNet — a public-private collaboration between the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and AT&T — continues to add more subscribers. In a press release announcing the new milestone, the Authority stated it has recently added the American Medical Response, the Chicago Police Department, the Seattle Fire Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard, among others. The announcement also reported that FirstNet consistently performs more than 25 percent faster than any commercial network, according to an analysis done by Ookla of Speedtest Intelligence that looked at average data download speeds in the first quarter of 2019.

FirstNet also says a majority of its subscriber agencies are new, as opposed to users who migrated over from AT&T’s existing network. This seems to suggest that as more jurisdictions sign up for the service, the more appealing it becomes for those who have not yet done so. AT&T has also launched a FirstNet Digital Sign Up Portal to make the process easier.

FirstNet is also taking steps to ensure that jurisdictions in areas with connectivity challenges can participate in the service. Its Band 14 spectrum technology, which covers larger geographical areas with less infrastructure, has been deployed in more than 600 markets. The program is also working to deploy connectivity through the air with its Flying Cells on Wings (Flying COWs), which consists of two drones tethered together and a trailer for transport that has a satellite dish and fiber connectivity. They can get up to 400 feet in the sky, and stay aloft in light rain and winds as fast as 25 miles per hour.

Plans call for outfitting the drones with Band 14 spectrum technology later this year.

FirstNet was created in 2012 by an act of Congress and received $7 billion in startup funds. In 2017, FirstNet awarded AT&T a 25-year contract to build and maintain a public safety network for first responders.

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