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AT&T Expands FirstNet 5G Network to First Responders in 10 More U.S. Cities


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.

Jason Porter, president of public sector and FirstNet at AT&T.

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.”



AT&T Delivers Portable FirstNet Units for Rhode Island First Responders

Rhode Island state government, emergency management, FirstNet Authority and AT&T representatives stand in front of a portable cell site known as a compact rapid deployable (CRD) unit, FirstNet technology for use by Rhode Island first responders.

Today, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee; Marc Pappas, director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA); and representatives of the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority joined AT&T representatives at the RIEMA Readiness Center to unveil new FirstNet equipment and technology for Rhode Island first responders.

According to the FirstNet Authority, the FirstNet broadband wireless network is the only nationwide network built with and for America’s first responders.

As part of the state’s plan when opting into FirstNet, AT&T has delivered two compact rapid deployables (CRDs) to RIEMA. Rhode Island is the first state to receive CRDs as a part of the state’s decision to advance its public safety broadband communications with FirstNet, according to the agency.

“Rhode Island is honored to be the first state to have the compact rapid deployables,” Pappas said. “The capability to provide a reliable communication service in a moment’s notice is extraordinary. The CRDs’ unmatched technology will increase Rhode Island’s position of readiness for response and recovery operations and provide secure and dependable cellular and Wi-Fi service when connectivity is limited.”

As trailer-mounted mobile units, CRDs provide FirstNet cellular and Wi-Fi coverage via satellite connectivity to first responders wherever their mission takes them, a statement from the FirstNet Authority reads. It said that the assets are owned and operated by RIEMA and were provided at no cost to the state.

“The CRDs can be utilized in response to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, or deployed in support of large-scale events or other public safety emergencies,” the agency’s statement reads. “They are best for use in rural or remote areas, as well as in areas where communications may temporarily be unavailable. CRDs can be set up by a single person in a matter of minutes.”

According to the Authority, the FirstNet network is the most important wireless network in the country, because it serves first responders and public safety community. To help ensure AT&T and the FirstNet Authority are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the agency said that the FirstNet network build is guided by feedback from state and public safety officials. The feedback, the agency said, helps Rhode Island’s first responders connect to the critical information they need every day, for every emergency.

“Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings, the agency’s statement reads. “It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.”

The FirstNet Authority said that, with more than 17,000 public safety agencies and organizations, accounting for more than 2.5 million connections nationwide, the FirstNet network is providing first responders with dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it; benefits like always-on priority; and preemption and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. “These advanced capabilities help emergency management, fire, EMS and law enforcement save lives and protect their communities,” the agency said.



AT&T, Motorola Collaborate on FirstNet Network

AT&T is collaborating with Motorola and other tech firms on FirstNet — the First Responder Network Authority, the nationwide network AT&T is building with and for America’s first responders — to spur innovation for public safety’s ecosystem of mission-centric applications and solutions.

Motorola Solutions will deliver a new Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk (MCPTT) solution this winter, enabling public safety agencies to use Motorola Solutions’ cloud-based Critical Connect for essential interoperability. The FirstNet interoperable platform will provide options for connectivity between land mobile radio (LMR) systems, the new MCPTT solution, as well as AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk (EPTT), for seamless communication and collaboration.

Other FirstNet collaborations with AT&T include:

MissionKeeper by KSI Data Sciences, an easy-to-use streaming software that gives multiple users access to live streamed video and data from drones, submersibles, robots, dash cams and other IoT devices. The software is said to allow teams to better collaborate and make field-based decisions quickly, from any location.

NetMotion by Absolute, which will provide a mobile-first VPN solution that helps accelerate, optimize and secure mobile device traffic directly to the dedicated FirstNet network core, improving the user experience by providing resilient connectivity both inside and outside coverage areas. NetMotion is a mobile VPN solution that is highly adopted by public safety. FirstNet has expanded its relationship with NetMotion offering multiple ways for public safety to get access to a known solution that provides users a seamless mobile experience with the security and controls.

FirstNet Messaging is a highly secure, group notification and messaging service that integrates with a wide range of notification applications. AT&T says FirstNet is expanding public safety’s network to reach more communities across the country and continuing its roll-out of mission-driven innovative solutions.

AT&T said the Motorola collaboration will leverage Motorola Solutions’ strength and expertise in mission-critical communication and LMR interoperability. The forthcoming standards-based broadband MCPTT voice, video and data solution will deliver greater situational awareness and more informed emergency response, as well as seamless connectivity to LMR networks through Critical Connect. Mission Critical broadband communications are based on public safety standards set by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) – the body responsible for global LTE and 5G standards – to provide modern, interoperable broadband communications.

Source: AT&T

FCC Grants C-band Spectrum Licenses Worth $81 Billion

By Don Bishop

The FCC granted 5,676 licenses today for wireless operations in mid-band radio-frequency spectrum, also known as C-band spectrum in the range from 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz. The licenses went to high bidders in the FCC Auction 107 that concluded on Feb. 17. Twenty-one bidders spent about $81 billion for the licenses. “Today’s action keeps the transition of this band to flexible use on track, paving the way for carriers to use this spectrum to provide 5G and other advanced wireless services,” a statement from the FCC reads.

The FCC’s acting chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, said, “These mid-band licenses are the sweet spot for 5G deployment. That’s because they have the right mix of capacity and propagation that will help us reach more people in more places faster. With these licenses in hand, more carriers can deploy mid-band 5G, which means faster speeds over much wider coverage areas and more robust competition.”

Among the bidders, Verizon Wireless, under its business name of Cellco Partnership, spent $45.5 billion for 3,511 licenses. AT&T spent $23.5 billion for 1,621 licenses. T-Mobile spent $9 billion for 142 licenses. U.S. Cellular spent $1.3 billion for 254 licenses. NewLevel II, a bidding entity for Grain Capital, spent $1.2 billion for 10 licenses. Canopy Spectrum, a joint venture of Jennifer Fritzsche and Ed Moise, spent $197 milllion for 84 licenses.

The initial authorizations have a term not to exceed 15 years from the date of initial issuance or renewal, the FCC said. The FCC imposed lengthy, detailed construction requirements upon the license-holders in an effort to see to it that they build facilities to put the spectrum to use.

Licenses in the A Block in 46 of the top 50 partial economic areas (PEAs) are subject to the accelerated relocation deadline of Dec. 5, 2021. Licenses in the B and C Blocks in the 46 PEAs and in the A, B, and C Blocks in the remaining 360 PEAs are subject to the Phase II accelerated relocation deadline of Dec. 5, 2023. Source: FCC


Satellite operators Intelsat, SES, Telesat, Eutelsat and Star One are working to clear the portion of the C-band that was auctioned, according to a story in Via Satellite. “The operators have agreed to clear the spectrum in exchange for relocation costs and incentive payments for clearing the spectrum on an accelerated timeline,” the story reads. “The FCC decided on $9.7 billion of accelerated relocation payments, most of which will go to Intelsat ($4.87 billion) and SES ($3.97 billion). The operators must first clear 120 megahertz of spectrum in 46 partial economic areas by Dec. 5, 2021. In a second phase, they must clear the lower 120 megahertz in the remaining areas, plus an additional 180 megahertz nationwide, by Dec. 5, 2023.”


Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

Opinion: What Is Hidden In The AT&T Dish Lovefest

By Ernest Worthman

Ern Worthman

The news about the latest waltz in the telecom sector (between Dish Network and AT&T) has been seen on just about every media outlet by now. Just in case you missed it, they have inked a new, long-term strategic Network Services Agreement (NSA) (said to be worth upwards of $5 billion) making AT&T the primary network services partner for DISH MVNO customers.

One comment was that this deal is simply a swap-out of T-Mobile for AT&T in Dish’s plans going forward. But there is a bit more to it than just that.

One of the key issues surrounding this agreement is that Dish is under a federal mandate to have wireless service to the rest of the country after 2023. This deal makes Dish an MVNO “indefinitely,” and has to potential to let Dish off the hook for fulfilling its federally mandated requirements should it falter (and there is substantial belief that it may). Not a bad plan for Dish to find some breathing room (rumor has it that T-Mobile was not willing to discuss extending their agreement past 2027).

Drilling down on that hard stop in 2027, while that seems like a lot of years for Dish to accomplish its goals, some analysts believe Dish would not have been able to meet federally imposed deadlines on its wireless buildout. Perhaps they are more concerned than they let on and saw that as a potential problem if things do not go according to plan. The AT&T deal adds six more years (to 2023) to that when all is said and done.

This is significant because Dish is obligated, under the terms of the consent decree between Dish, T-Mobile, Sprint, the DOJ, and the FCC, to build out wireless facilities covering 70 percent of the U.S. population by 2025. Dish notes that they are not worried that this goal can be reached since that 70 percent is collected in less than three percent of the U.S. landmass.  Without an MVNO agreement to fall back on, Dish would have to build out the rest of the country, of which the next 25 percent occupies nearly ten times the landmass of the first 70 percent. And the number goes downhill from there. That is the real rub. So, this new arrangement gives Dish some breathing room, basically, and here is why.

There are two issues with “coverage.” That, defined by the FCC, and that defined to achieve customer satisfaction. And it is not just semantics. FCC coverage is loose. It is a broad stroke that just means coverage is available, even if it is slow and spotty. The satisfaction coverage is a completely different animal. It means that coverage is ubiquitous, i.e., residences, enterprises, venues, open areas, dead spots, malls, parks, you name it. That is where Dish is looking ahead to the deadline of 2027 with some trepidation.

While this seems to have more honey than vinegar, it is by no means a slam dunk. And not all opinions are on the same page. An analyst or two makes note that accomplishing part of what Dish must do is somewhat difficult – the Partial Economic Areas (PEAs). The main issues with these tend to be geography (not so much) and RoI (much). There are challenges with the infrastructure as well (power, backhaul, terrain, etc.). This will be the make or break for Dish under the agreements and the FCC’s watchful eye.

Now, Dish has more flexibility and time for implementing its own buildout. Even after it meets all of its FCC commitments, it has some work to do to fully blanket the nation with its own network coverage. Now they can rely on the T-Mobile MVNO deal as a safety net for a few more years while it builds out its own network and meet the customer requirement of fully blanketing the country with its own network.

Additionally, there is speculation that that the deal also was some insurance for AT&T’s DirecTV satellite TV business.

That makes some sense as well. After years of the satellite industry showing little growth and promise, the recent uptick of Non-geostationary Orbit (NGSO, the latest term for LEO satellites) is breathing new life into the satellite business. Even the GSO satellite business (where Dish has its birds) is seeing some resurgence. This gives Dish another content source, if that is something they are thinking about, going forward and such a vector fits into the MVNO landscape at some point.

In the end, it is a good deal for AT&T, not so good for T-Mobile, and a win for Dish. The reasons have been analyzed to death, with all kinds of theories as to why the players did what they did. Several analysts have analyzed the financial implications. Others the motives of Dish, AT&T, and T-Mobile. But when it comes down to counting the chips it is all about keeping as many of them as they can and keeping the revenue stream, wherever it is, running.  It will be interesting to watch how this plays out in the next few years.


Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.