DALLAS – As the nation continues to combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the FirstNet communications platform – built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – is bringing advanced capabilities to first responders across the country. Now, first responder public safety agencies on FirstNet can get premium FirstNet Ready smartphone devices for free for their agency paid users to connect them to critical communications when and where they need it most. All they have to do is get a new FirstNet Mobile – Unlimited for Smartphone line of service or eligible upgrade with either a 2-year service agreement or a new AT&T Installment 30-month agreement and meet some other conditions.
"First responders deserve a dedicated communications partner that can provide the tools they need, when they need them, and that's exactly what they're getting with FirstNet," said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. "We are here working side-by-side with public safety and together we've made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we're seeing currently with COVID-19. Now, agencies spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 911 operations can stay up-to-date with smartphones for life at no additional cost and know their responders' devices are up to the task when the next emergency strikes."
The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet, the only nationwide high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America's first responders. While commercial wireless offerings are available to public safety, FirstNet continues to grow because its public safety features stand above other wireless networks built for commercial use. As we detailed last week, this is exactly the type of crisis that public safety designed FirstNet for.
Two years ago, we brought public safety's specialized communications platform to life with the launch of the FirstNet dedicated network core. Already covering 99% of the U.S. population, we provide subscribers with the innovative, mission-focused tools, technologies and features they can't get anywhere else. As we continue for the next 20+ years to operate, maintain and evolve FirstNet, public safety can confidently turn to this dedicated platform and the entire FirstNet ecosystem to help them effectively respond to their critical missions – from service with always-on, 24 hours-a-day priority and preemption, unique spectrum, FirstNet Ready devices, highly secure apps, dedicated network deployables and more.
In addition to public safety agencies having free smartphones for life, to support FirstNet subscribers responding to the coronavirus, first responders can also benefit from:
- Expanded mapping visibility. Formerly known as Local Control, FirstNet Central is the primary service portal for agencies using FirstNet. Now, public safety administrators have easy access to the interactive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Agencies can view confirmed cases in relation to their jurisdiction and couple this insight with the FirstNet Esri-embedded network status map – that now includes hospital and trauma levels – for better situational awareness.
- $200 activation credit for FirstNet subscribers. Starting April 1, individual first responders who sign-on to FirstNet and pay for their own service can get a $200 activation credit when activating a new FirstNet Ready smartphone on a new FirstNet First Mobile-Responder plan. This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to the fastest overall nationwide network experience.
Fostering new capabilities
Developed from the ground up specifically for and with public safety, FirstNet Push-to-Talk (PTT) is the first-ever nationwide mission-critical standards-based push-to-talk solution to launch in the U.S. We tested the FirstNet PTT solution with public safety agencies across the country, including the Cranford Police Department in New Jersey.
"Reliable communication is critical. It must work. It must be there when we need it. And it must be crystal clear because we don't have time to repeat ourselves or introduce room for errors in fast-changing situations or when lives are on the line. Our experience with FirstNet Push-to-Talk has been excellent. On more than one occasion, FirstNet PTT allowed us to effectively communicate when our traditional systems failed," said Captain Guy Patterson of the Cranford Police Department.
"Testing FirstNet PTT was an intensely promising experience, showing us the future capability, quality and performance we can infuse into our response to enhance effectiveness and collaboration," Captain Patterson continued.
Currently available in a controlled-introduction, FirstNet PTT is designed to enable public safety to use their smartphones, feature phones, and specialized ultra-rugged devices like they would use a two-way radio, with highly reliable, high-performance calling. FirstNet PTT will also deliver new features that allow first responders to better react to changing events.
We're building a broad ecosystem of devices, apps and accessories that will support FirstNet PTT and drive further innovation, choice and flexibility for public safety.
The first device to launch is the Samsung Galaxy XCover FieldPro. This field-ready device is purpose-built, equipped with push-to-talk capability, and highly secure. Its features make it suited for use by first responders across all public safety disciplines.
To help make sure devices meet first responders' needs, they are subject to hundreds of tests that cover many key capabilities, from security and durability to network impacts. Only devices that pass these tests are certified and approved as FirstNet Ready.
We've also certified an Assured Wireless Corporation embedded IoT module and USB connected modem as FirstNet Ready in preparation for launching high-power user equipment (HPUE) solutions. Following 3GPP standards, power class 1 HPUE solutions can transmit stronger signals. This increased signal can only be transmitted using Band 14 spectrum – the nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the U.S. government specifically for FirstNet.
For first responders serving rural, remote and tribal communities, HPUE could significantly increase their coverage area. For urban and suburban first responders, this could help address the common challenge of indoor or below ground coverage. The stronger signal provides increased availability to meet mission needs for users who are connecting from hard-to-reach places like basements, elevators, stairwells, and parking garages, and helping first responders reliably communicate inside and out.
In 2017, the federal government selected AT&T to build and manage FirstNet, public safety's network. We have a responsibility unlike any other wireless carrier, and the FirstNet Authority will hold AT&T accountable to deliver the solutions that meet public safety's needs – today and for decades to come.