FirstNet says it continues to see rapid growth in its subscriber base
More than 3,600 public safety agencies around the country are now subscribers of FirstNet-AT&T — although FirstNet leaders cautioned that the partnership is still in the early days of its network buildout and there is more work to be done.
That 3,600-agency figure is an increase of almost 50% in less than two months, FirstNet noted, adding there are more than 250,000 connections to the FirstNet network. In FirstNet’s previous update in August, it reported that more than 2,500 agencies had signed on to its service and that there were more than 150,000 connections to the FirstNet network.
FirstNet-AT&T subscribers have prioritized access to all of AT&T’s spectrum, as well as preemption services.
“We’re still early in the build process, and we’ll continue to work side-by-side with the public safety community to ensure FirstNet lives up to its promises,” said Ed Parkinson, the FirstNet Authority’s acting CEO, in a statement. “But to see FirstNet in action and hear how first responders across the country have already benefitted from the service is a remarkable start and a solid testament to why FirstNet was created.”
FirstNet-AT&T noted that in terms of operations, it is “continuing to serve the thousands of first responders and National Guard members who are still actively aiding in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts” and has two of its Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) deployables at the Harders Base Camp in Panama City, Florida, in one of the hardest-hit areas of the state. AT&T has also said that FirstNet SatCOLTs were deployed in Panama City, Florida and in Colquitt and Seminole County, Georgia to support post-hurricane first responder communications, and that FirstNet-AT&T worked with Florida Governor Rick Scott to identify public safety agencies that didn’t have commercial services and delivered FirstNet-enabled devices for them to use.
FirstNet announced in October that its fleet of 72 deployable cell sites was ready for service. The units are available to FirstNet subscribers at no additional charge, with a 14-hour delivery window after a request is made.
FirstNet-AT&T also touted the use of its network to detect drones flying in restricted airspace at the recent Aluquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was held for nine days in October. The event draws an estimated 900,000 people annually. This year, the Fiesta used a drone detection system operated by Aerial Armor to monitor restricted airspace above and near the event; that system was connected to FirstNet’s network to ensure reliable connectivity and detected nearly 50 drones operating in the restricted airspace over the course of the event, assisting in providing pictures and text messages to law enforcement on the ground. That led to between 12 to 15 apprehensions, according to preliminary numbers provided by FirstNet.
“With congestion on the network, we typically don’t have the connectivity we need via a traditional carrier to communicate at the level we need to coordinate with the people working in the Park. FirstNet gave us that. I was able to get real-time pictures and videos of incidents that needed attention from law enforcement,” said New Mexico State Police Sergeant Steven Carroll in a statement. “The ability to stop potential issues before they negatively impacted attendees was monumental.”