- FirstNet, the dedicated public safety communications network, now has 425,000 subscribers across 5,250 public safety agencies, up 60% since October, the authority and AT&T announced.
- AT&T last year increased its LTE coverage area by more than 50,000 square miles, covering 1 million additional users. It also expanded its Band 14 spectrum — which is dedicated to FirstNet subscribers but can be used by AT&T customers — to more than 500 markets, covering 40% of its rural and non-rural target areas.
- In a statement, Marachel Knight, AT&T senior vice president for wireless and access engineering, construction and operations, said the company expects its LTE network capacity to increase 50% between the end of 2017 and the end of this year.
The network expansion continues after a fast-growing first year for FirstNet, which is borne of a partnership between AT&T and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Despite a bumpy, much-delayed windup to the network’s March launch, the network has rapidly added subscribers — 3,600 public safety agencies were members as of October, up 150% from July. Test cases such as Hurricane Florence and the California wildfires have also shown the idea of giving first responders a dedicated network, free from congestion from other users, can help safety officials do their job.
“Witnessing the real, tangible and – at times – life-saving impacts that FirstNet had in 2018 fuels us to keep moving quickly to blanket the country with reliable connectivity,” said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, in a statement. “And we’re set for the explosive growth ahead.”
Of particular importance is FirstNet’s expansion to rural and remote areas, where cellular coverage is often lacking. Still, AT&T highlighted Band 14 boosts in cities including Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, where first responders have sought additional capacity.
The Band 14 expansion will also help AT&T customers, since it will boost the network’s commercial capabilities when not reserved for first responders. The network’s new capability is helping bring more data speeds to customers ahead of the telecom’s 5G rollout.