FirstNet has thoroughly been tested so far in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with emergency services responding to tornadoes, wildfires, and floods. Now, forecasters at the National Weather Service expect a more active than usual Atlantic hurricane season, according to an AT&T release.
Prepared to support response and recovery with a dedicated fleet of more than 76 deployable network assets to fire, EMS, law enforcement, and other agencies, FirstNet is making them available at no charge. According to AT&T, these first response services are provided with “unthrottled access to connectivity.”
The deployment of the FirstNet fleet led by former first responders, guides the agency based on public safety needs. The team coordinates across federal, state, tribal, and local agencies.
Other connectivity measures are:
- The Original 72: These dedicated mobile cell sites, including assets such as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), provide first responders with similar capabilities and connectivity as a cell tower. These mobile sites are housed in 50 areas across the nation; this allows for delivery to an impacted area within 14-hours of a request.
- FirstNet Flying Cell on Wings (COWs): In 2019, the FirstNet Fleet added 3 Flying COWs, which can reach heights of up to 400 feet. This mobile infrastructure works well during wildfires and mountain rescue missions, enabling first responders to maintain connectivity.
- FirstNet One Aerostat: This “balloon” is capable of flying to a height of 1,000 feet and can replace multiple ground-based portable cell sites.
- AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Fleet (NDR): AT&T invested more than $650 million in the U.S. and another $15 million internationally to allow public safety to tap into 300+ assets from the NDR fleet when available.
Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T, said the board approved an additional investment — more than $200 million — for initial network upgrades to set FirstNet on a path to 5G plus expand its mobile assets. These assets include mobile command vehicles, which can be deployed as early as next year.
AT&T reported that in 2019, the telecom received more than 450 requests for deployable support by public safety agencies. So far, in 2020, public safety has turned to FirstNet deployable network assets for additional support during 200+ emergencies and planned events, including supporting the COVID-19 response operations at quarantine sites, field hospitals, testing sites, and emergency operations centers.
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