remote firefighter (StockPhotosLV/

FirstNet touts communications 'bubble' for responders

To ensure emergency responders can communicate with nearby resources, AT&T 's FirstNet team and Sonim, a rugged smartphone manufacturer, are creating Emergency Drop Kits, which will create a 300-foot "connected bubble" that allows responders to  maintain constant communication to FirstNet, the nationwide public safety wireless broadband network.

Designed for emergencies like wildfires or hurricane or in rural and remote areas, the kits provide a short-term solution for connection to FirstNet. They include a Cradlepoint LTE router equipped with a modem and integrated Wi-Fi that provide a secure and reliable data communications hub with failover to Inmarsat Government satellite service.  The kits also include four Sonim XP8 rugged Android smartphones preloaded with FirstNet apps.

The kits are still at the proof of concept stage, AT&T officials said, but are moving toward production.

The AT&T FirstNet team also announced it is establishing a Response Operations Program that would embed FirstNet liaisons within each state's emergency operations center to better guide the deployment of dedicated FirstNet assets, such as such as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks and distributed antenna systems. The liaisons will serve as the primary link between public safety agencies and FirstNet resources, coordinating across federal, state, local and tribal agencies.

In July, the company said it had simplified FirstNet service contracts available through NPPGov, a national cooperative procurement organization offering publicly solicited contracts to government entities nationwide through a lead public agency. NPPGov members can sign up for FirstNet and access custom FirstNet pricing in their state without signing a contract, allowing them to onboard more quickly.

In the past month, AT&T said adoption had grown to nearly 1,500 public safety agencies across 52 states and territories.

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