FirstNet connections have reached more than 600,000, and most of those connections are new to the network, not AT&T subscribers migrating to FirstNet plans and devices, the carrier said.
“A majority of agencies and nearly 50% of FirstNet’s total connections are new subscribers (not AT&T migrations), and that mix continues to shift,” AT&T said in an update on its FirstNet progress. “Since January 2019, most of the FirstNet connections added are new subscribers to AT&T.”
FirstNet-AT&T said that some of the agencies which have recently come on board include the Anchorage Police Department, the Chicago Police Department, the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Seattle Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as AAA Ambulance Service and American Medical Response, a emergency medical transportation provider.
AT&T has said that the Band 14 build-out for the First Responders Network Authority is more than halfway complete and running ahead of schedule. The FirstNet network private core was launched in March 2018 and AT&T has made building out 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum in its Radio Access Network a priority, as it is also broadening support for its other spectrum holdings and new LTE features at the same time.
“We’ve entered the second year of our FirstNet Band 14 rollout with incredible momentum, already tracking well ahead of schedule, covering more than 50% of our total nationwide coverage targets,” said Chris Sambar, SVP of AT&T-FirstNet, adding that the company “[doesn’t] intend to slow down.”
AT&T executives have credited the FirstNet build-out with recent improvements in network performance rankings. CEO Randall Stephenson also said on the company’s most recent quarterly call with investors that FirstNet is having a “not insubstantial” impact on customer gains, and that when AT&T gains one FirstNet subscriber, two family members are switching to an AT&T plan as well.
AT&T also touted a new deployable option to first responder subscribers, ahead of hurricane season: three flying, portable cellular sites are available, although they won’t be outfitted with Band 14 coverage until the second half of this year (AT&T& has made all of its spectrum bands available to FirstNet subscribers, with priority and preemption). Those flying Cells on Wheels consist of two tethered drones capable of reaching heights up to 400 feet above the ground, and a transport trailer equipped with a satellite dish and fiber connections, AT&T said. They can withstand light rain and winds up to 25 miles per hour. Those, and the 72 other deployables that can be requested by FirstNet user for emergency coverage support, are available at no additional cost to FirstNet subscriber — although AT&T’s FirstNet team decides which assets will be used to respond to a request for coverage.