AT&T’s FirstNet program was founded to establish a single, interoperable network for public safety. FirstNet is meant to help public safety agencies and first responders get more information quickly and help make faster and better decisions through a public safety communications platform built on a nationwide wireless broadband network.
As of February 2022, AT&T’s FirstNet has hit another milestone, expanding its 5G to 10 new locations, including:
- Savannah, Georgia
- Western Kansas
- Lansing, Michigan
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Toledo, Ohio
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Hilton Head, South Carolina
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Richmond, Virginia
- Redmond, Washington
AT&T promises to deliver more 5G connectivity to FirstNet in the coming months. Public Safety has access to mmWave 5G (what AT&T calls 5G+) in more than 35 stadiums and venues and 40 cities. FirstNet coverage extends to over 2.81 million square miles across the country.
Related: AT&T 5G and 5G+ Explained
FirstNet first launched using 4G LTE, but now that 5G is becoming more commonplace, the program can soon expect faster speeds and boosted coverage. AT&T is working against a deadline, with the FirstNet buildout needing to be completed by March 2023. However, AT&T is well ahead of its goal, with 95% of the work completed in 2021.
While public safety agencies aren’t required to use AT&T’s FirstNet program, many of them are. Over 19,500 agencies and organizations account for over 3 million FirstNet connections across the US at the end of 2021. AT&T’s goal is to improve in-building public safety connectivity. About 80% of wireless calls happen indoors, and GPS systems have a hard time pinpointing those calling from inside and an even harder time if it’s a multi-level building. FirstNet is looking to collaborate with Safer Buildings Coalition to aid in deploying Band 14 (spectrum) and in-building installation standards that meet or exceed industry best practices and building code standards.
It’s rumored that FirstNet will utilize AT&T’s C-band spectrum, as the company has recently spent billions of dollars at recent auctions. Any way you slice it, 5G connectivity will vastly improve existing FirstNet connections and future ones.
“While 5G will ultimately bring a combination of benefits like ultra-low latency and ultra-high speeds to support all kinds of users, it’s essential we approach 5G in a different way for first responders,” said AT&T Public Sector/FirstNet President Jason Porter, in a statement. “That’s why, with FirstNet, we’re taking the right steps for public safety. We’ve upgraded the dedicated FirstNet network core to enable reliable 5G connectivity. This gives first responders priority access across AT&T 5G+ (mmWave) spectrum in parts of more than 40 cities and 35 stadiums and venues, as well as across AT&T 5G in 20 cities across the country (10 newly added as part of this announcement). We look forward to continuing our work with the FirstNet Authority to evolve public safety’s network and grow access to 5G for America’s first responders.”