Following every major large-scale disaster – whether manmade or natural – public safety develops an after-action report. These are vital to helping ensure that we are even more prepared for the next major event. And if there was ever a year that deserved such assessment, it’s 2020.
Amidst titanic cultural shifts, health and safety threats and surrounding uncertainty, America’s first responders and frontline healthcare workers experienced a year unlike any other. And FirstNet®, Built with AT&T – the nation’s only communications network providing first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when and where they need – was there to serve them. From supporting the first mass COVID-19 testing sites, as well as severe wildfires and one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, straight through to the siege on the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, the past year has been the ultimate stress test for FirstNet.
That’s why I’m joining First Responder Network Authority CEO Ed Parkinson; Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), Ranking Member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology; and members of the public safety community from across the country this coming Monday for a discussion on the past year, the role FirstNet has played and how it continues to hit the mark for public safety. It’s these types of critical conversations that led to the creation of FirstNet after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And it’s these discussions that will help ensure public safety’s network continues to innovate and grow for decades to come.
While those that envisioned FirstNet could not have predicted this unprecedented year, they did know that first responders needed a dedicated, highly secure and reliable communications platform to effectively protect our communities. FirstNet has answered the call. And that’s evident by our efforts over the past year:
- Delivering first responder-centric 5G. When lives are on the line, reliability is critical. That’s why FirstNet is the only network that provides first responders with always-on priority and preemption on LTE. It also means we must approach 5G for public safety in a completely unique way. Now they get the best of both worlds. Public safety now has access to AT&T mmWave (5G+) spectrum in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 venues. And first responders maintain voice communications with priority and preemption on LTE, while the intuitive FirstNet network determines the best route for data traffic with compatible devices, whether that’s 5G+ or LTE spectrum.
- Leading public safety innovation. We launched Z-Axis for FirstNet – which makes it possible for first responders to not only know what street corner they’re standing on, but what floor of the building they’re in; became the only network where public safety can take advantage of high-power user equipment (HPUE) solutions like FirstNet MegaRange™; and launched first-ever nationwide mission-critical standards-based push-to-talk solution in the U.S., FirstNet Push-to-Talk. Plus, as the pandemic first began to spread across the nation, we brought public safety agencies free smartphones for life to help ensure their responders’ devices are up to the task when the next emergency strikes. These are just a few of the reasons why Frost & Sullivan recognized AT&T for the 3rd consecutive year as the public safety company of the year.
- Driving interoperability. FirstNet is the only interoperable communications platform dedicated to public safety– exactly what public safety demanded. As the only network that gives first responders always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption, we’re delivering an experience second-to-none. And, we remain focused on delivering innovative, core-integrated solutions and 3GPP standards-based interoperability.
- Bridging the digital divide to reach all public safety. In unprecedented circumstances, we continued to expand FirstNet for public safety. In 2020, we added nearly 100,000 square miles to the coverage footprint, helping FirstNet to cover 2.71 million square miles of the country. This ongoing expansion helps first responders not only gain access to mission-critical capabilities they can’t get anywhere else, but also provides critical connectivity in previously unserved areas.
- Prioritizing first responder health and wellness. Nothing is more important than the lives of first responders and the people they serve. And as public safety’s partner, we understand the unique stressors and personal sacrifices that first responders endure. That’s why we have launched the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition to provide holistic responder support to help ensure they are at their best day in and day out.
FirstNet is the only network built with public safety, for public safety. Today, more than 16,000 agencies and organizations – accounting for more than 2.2 million connections nationwide – have subscribed to FirstNet. They are now on the frontlines of our nationwide vaccination efforts. And they continue to be there for us – every day and in every emergency.
Tune in at 3 p.m. ET on April 26 to learn about public safety’s tremendous efforts over the past year, and how FirstNet has helped first responders reliably communicate and effectively coordinate during their lifesaving missions. Don’t forget to register here: https://policyforumeventreg.att.com/firstnet