FirstNet soars with over 1 million connections and launch of “FirstNet One” – a deployable blimp – for public safety

December 16, 2019

by AT&T

Band 14 coverage expansion over 75% complete

FirstNet, built with AT&T, is growing in a big way. More than 10,000 public safety agencies and organizations across the country have subscribed.  And over 1 million FirstNet connections are now in service, bringing you and those who support you the reliability and capability you can trust to carry out your mission. 

“Public safety is called upon to handle emergencies every single day. They have to be ready for the worst with the best tools to help them respond safely, efficiently and effectively,” said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “We’re honored to see FirstNet play a supporting role in that response for thousands of agencies across the country.

“FirstNet is the only wireless communications platform that’s been architected from the ground up just for the public safety community. It’s specifically designed to advance public safety communications, equipping subscribing first responders with the innovative, mission-focused tools, technologies and features they can’t get anywhere else.”

That includes a giant addition to the FirstNet disaster response arsenal. FirstNet One, a 55-foot aerostat more commonly known as a blimp, brings total deployable assets to 76. It’s a first-of-its-kind communications solution. And it’s designed to help keep responders connected during catastrophic events. FirstNet One:

  • Can fly up to 1,000 feet, potentially providing over 2 times the coverage area as compared to other deployable solutions, like Satellite Cells on Wheels and Flying Cells on Wings™ (COWs).
  • Is fully operational in windspeeds up to 50 mph; can withstand windspeeds of up to 70 mph
  • Can stay aloft for about 2 weeks before needing additional helium top-off, giving you wide-scale portable connectivity over an extended period of time
  • Is tethered to a trailer to provide either satellite or wireline backhaul
  • Reduces the need for multiple ground-based portable cell sites. This frees those assets for other agencies nationwide.

Like the other portable assets – including 3 Flying COWs™ – FirstNet One will be available 24/7 at no additional charge to agencies on FirstNet for use during major incidents. This could include major hurricanes, like last year’s Hurricane Michael. FirstNet deployed assets in the Florida panhandle for 3+ months while recovery efforts were underway there. The FirstNet Response Operations Group at AT&T, led by former first responders, will determine the appropriate asset – or resolution – to send, based on the situation.

So far this year, FirstNet has deployed network assets in support of 450+ emergencies and planned events. This includes sporting events, parades and training activities.

For example, Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue called the FirstNet team to support a large-scale training drill spanning multiple jurisdictions. The Response Operations Group deployed a FirstNet Flying COW™ to support the search and rescue team.

"In remote areas of the county, communications have always been a challenge. And if we can’t communicate, we can’t see if our teams are safe or obtain the latest rescue status from those in the field,” said Rusty Wackermann, Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue Technical Rescue Coordinator. “FirstNet is solving for this, giving us on-demand access to the connectivity we need when our community needs us the most."

And you continue to benefit with the aggressive expansion of FirstNet coverage and capacity across the country. Using all AT&T LTE bands, FirstNet already covers over 99% of the U.S. population today.

To date, we’ve deployed Band 14 in over 675 markets1, completing more than 75% of our coverage target. This includes every major city from coast to coast. It includes rural towns like Hempstead, Ark., Lincoln, N.M., and Maury, Tenn., and tribal areas like White Earth Reservation where a new, purpose-built site recently went on-air nearby.  

“After experiencing wireless data connectivity issues, we began searching for a solution. We field-tested several FirstNet devices and received an overwhelmingly positive response from all the users. So we made the decision to switch all city departments to FirstNet,” said Captain Jeremy Ward, Blytheville Police Department. “Since the switch, we have had a reliable connection and great coverage, which helps us keep our community safe.”

Check out to learn more about the program.

Markets defined by FCC CMAs.