Preston County, West Virginia’s first responders will soon be receiving a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site, located in Fellowsville, is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in West Virginia, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. The new FirstNet site will give Preston County’s first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.
The FirstNet network is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize public safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need, every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), an independent agency within the federal government.
To ensure AT&T is bringing coverage where first responders need it most, the FirstNet platform is being built with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. Based along Route 50, the Preston County site location was identified as a top spot where rural connectivity challenges exist in West Virginia. This critical infrastructure is being built to increase network coverage and capacity to better support first responders as they serve and protect residents and visitors in the area.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and the representatives of the FirstNet Authority joined AT&T at the Preston County 911 Center to celebrate the new FirstNet cell site groundbreaking.
“I have long advocated for rural broadband expansion to support our communities and first responders,” Capito said. “This and other sites still in the works will help further extend rural coverage in a way that benefits both public safety and the broader community. When emergencies happen, it is critical that our firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, 911 telecommunicators and emergency managers all have the communications tools they need to achieve their mission: keeping themselves, West Virginians and our communities safe.”
Preston County Commission President Dave Price said that he is pleased to see FirstNet staying true to its promise of expanding coverage in our area with the new site build. “As an early adopter of FirstNet, we’ve already experienced the early benefits that this dedicated system is bringing to West Virginia’s first responders,” said. “Plus, it’s paving the way for new capabilities and innovations in the way we handle emergencies and serve our community. It’s a true game-changer, and this site will help bring us the reliable connectivity needed to take advantage of it.”
This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in West Virginia following the governor’s decision to advance the state’s public safety broadband communications with FirstNet. The site is being constructed using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum and other spectrum bands in the AT&T commercial spectrum portfolio. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across West Virginia.
FirstNet Authority’s board chair, Edward Horowitz, said that FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for public safety, by public safety. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with West Virginia’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network,” he said. “This cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Preston County first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”
In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in Preston County. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands and Band 14 when additional capacity is available.
Andy Feeney, president of AT&T West Virginia, said that West Virginia’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. “With FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the Public Safety mission and bring the state’s first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need.”
The cell site isn’t the only connectivity enhancement Preston County’s Public Safety community will benefit from if they subscribe to FirstNet. A FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) was also on display during the cell site’s groundbreaking celebration.
The SatCOLT is a large, heavy-duty portable cell site that connects via satellite, not fiber. It’s part of the nationwide fleet of 75 deployable network assets available to FirstNet subscribers at no additional charge. Public safety agencies on FirstNet can request the equipment for added support during planned events or emergencies. The deployable network asset is designed to keep FirstNet subscribers connected to the information they need, no matter where their mission takes them, allowing first responders to make rescues, communicate and coordinate their emergency response or aid in recovery, even in the most remote parts of the state.
April Ward is senior media relations advisor at the First Responder Network Authority.
Less than a year into the official Band 14 build, AT&T has added more than 50,000+ square miles to the nationwide LTE network footprint of FirstNet. AT&T and FirstNet are months ahead of schedule with already meeting 40 percent of the total rural and urban coverage targets the end of this year. The capacity of the network has been increase by 50 percent since the end of 2017 while simultaneously laying the foundation for a 5G future.
The added LTE coverage is a result of the ongoing network build initiatives to expand and enhance connectivity for consumers and first responders in both urban and rural areas on both indoor and outdoor sites.
Some examples of rural areas that are underway and currently benefitting from the network build include: the Black Hills of South Dakota, where nearly half a million people gather for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the farming communities of Tulare County, California, and tribal lands within the Chickasaw Nation in south-central Oklahoma.
In areas where coverage already exists, FirstNet is making sure first responders have the capacity they need to get the job done without interruption. Now, urban and suburban centers in markets like Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, among others, are getting a Band 14 boost.
In total, AT&T and FirstNet have deployed Band 14 spectrum in more than 500 markets further increasing the platform’s coverage and capacity across the country. The deployment touches 425,000 subscribers, which is a 60 percent increase in the number of subscribers since the end of October 2018, spanning more than 5,250 public safety agencies on FirstNet to date.
Taoglas has begun to market it Taoglas Response line of LTE antennas specifically designed for FirstNet applications, including the GuardianX , an 11-in-1 MIMO low-profile, adhesive-mount antenna, as well as the Synergy 9-in-1 MIMO screw-mount antenna, that deliver the best in FirstNet Band 14, LTE, Wi-Fi and satellite connectivity.
Adoptions of FirstNet, a dedicated (Band 14) nationwide broadband network for first responders in the U.S., continue to grow, driving demand for next-generation antenna technology to deliver the reliability and coverage needed to enable this crucial connectivity system. Key FirstNet applications include computer-aided dispatch (vehicle location), EMS electronic patient care reporting, vehicle-mounted RMS/citations/scanners, video streaming, and drones deployed by emergency services using FirstNet LTE.
“We’ve seen in the last six to eight months the rapid deployment of FirstNet in all types of first responder vehicles,” said James Bergner, fleet operations manager at ProLogic ITS, a premier first responder installer. “An excellent performing antenna is critical to the network.”
The Taoglas Response antennas are designed to work with FirstNet-ready routers from Sierra Wireless and Cradlepoint, with more to be announced in the future from FirstNet operator AT&T. The GuardianX 11-in-1 is the first low-profile, adhesive-mount, high-performing antenna to accommodate the Sierra Wireless MG90, with antenna combinations of 6 Wi-Fi, 4 LTE and GNSS.
“FirstNet is the go-to technology in the first response market,” said Ed Denmark, chief of police, town of Harvard, Massachusetts. “The performance of the antennas will be vital for optimum communications.”
Edward Parkinson has been named Acting Chief Executive Officer of the First Responder Network Authority following the recent resignation of Mike Poth, who had served as CEO since 2015.
Parkinson’s appointment was warmly received by the wireless industry, including the National Association of Tower Erectors.
“NATE congratulates Ed Parkinson on being named as the Acting CEO of FirstNet,” said Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “NATE has worked closely with Mr. Parkinson for over four years and looks forward to continuing to collaborate with him moving forward. Ed understands the critical role wireless infrastructure and the industry’s technician workforce will play in the FirstNet build-out and is a great leader to hand the baton in order to ensure the network’s ultimate success.”
Parkinson joined the FirstNet Authority in 2013, after working on the House Homeland Security Committee for then Chairman Peter T. King. During his time with the committee, he drafted the initial bill that began the effort to create FirstNet. He was one of the first employees to join the FirstNet Authority, and served in a variety of leadership positions within the organization, most recently as the Executive Director of External Affairs. Parkinson led the organization’s outreach efforts that resulted in all 56 states and territories choosing to opt-into the FirstNet Network.
Mike Poth has resigned his position as CEO of the FirstNet Authority and accepted a position in the private sector. He will assist with transition efforts before leaving his position at the end of September. The FirstNet board will select a new CEO in coordination with the Department of Commerce, and in the interim, an Acting CEO will be named.
Poth guided the nascent organization through many stages, including issuing and granting an RFP to AT&T to build out the First Responders Broadband Network, gaining opt-in from all 50 states and territories for the design of the network, and the subscription of 1,500 public safety agencies to the network so far.
Poth has two decades of executive management experience with Hewlett Packard and Northrop Grumman in the technology sector, with expertise in business development and strategic and operational business planning. Poth is a former public safety official having served in police departments for 14 years, rising to the rank of captain.
In other news, the FirstNet Authority and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has reappointed Edward Horowitz to the FirstNet Board and named him Chair of the Board for a two-year term.