AT&T has expanded the FirstNet network — its sub-6 gigahertz low-band version of 5G designed for first responders — to 10 more U.S. cities: Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Knoxville, Tennessee; Phoenix; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Antonio.
The company disclosed that first responders in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 venues already have access to AT&T mmWave (5G+) spectrum. In a statement, AT&T said it expects to roll out additional 5G connectivity for FirstNet in more communities nationwide this year. Meanwhile, AT&T said it expects to offer the commercial version of its 5G+ connectivity in parts of more than 40 cities and 40 venues by the end of 2021.
“To increase the flexibility and resiliency of AT&T NextGen 9-1-1 services, AT&T ESInet is now integrated with the FirstNet network,” the statement reads. “By serving as an automatic wireless backup to connect to public safety answering points (PSAP), FirstNet enables the delivery of IP-based 9-1-1 call traffic through the AT&T Virtual Private Network (VPN).”
Since launching FirstNet MegaRange earlier this year — which is designed to significantly improve connectivity, especially at the edge of network coverage — AT&T said that public safety personnel have started experiencing MegaRange’s benefits as they respond to everyday emergencies and disasters. MegaRange is AT&T’s name for user equipment authorized under FCC rules to use as much as 1.2 watts of output power only on Band 14 spectrum, compared with 0.2 watts of power on other frequencies.
AT&T said that firefighters are using MegaRange to help combat this year’s record-breaking wildfire season. “For example, Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District in Oregon used MegaRange during their response to the Grandview Fire, which has burned just over 6,000 acres and threated hundreds of homes,” the statement reads. It said that the fire was in a notoriously difficult communications area (for both cellular and radio transmissions), and MegaRange enabled key personnel to provide live situational awareness to commanders via call, text and other FirstNet certified applications.
“Record-breaking wildfires and other natural disasters this year have disrupted businesses and forced families to leave their homes,” said Jason Porter, president, public sector and FirstNet, AT&T. “But as communities evacuate, our first responders run toward the danger. That’s why public safety has FirstNet. We’re providing reliable connectivity to first responders, and doing it the right way for their unique mission needs. From improving coverage with MegaRange to launching 5G on FirstNet in more areas across the country, we’re committed to being by public safety’s side no matter the emergency.”
According to AT&T, FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. “Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings,” the statement reads. “It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.”
To access 5G FirstNet, AT&T said that first responders need a FirstNet Ready 5G device, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G or the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G, which are now available for pre-order. “FirstNet subscribers need to pay no additional charge for 5G connectivity,” the statement reads. “Individual verified first responders not already on FirstNet can sign up online or at the more than 5,000 AT&T retail stores across the country.”