FirstNet expands coverage to 2.7 million square miles

FirstNet added nearly 100,000 square miles of coverage in 2020, bringing the nationwide wireless broadband public-safety network’s communications capabilities to a total of 15,000 subscribing agencies and organizations via 1.9 million LTE connections across more than 2.71 million square miles. 

The network, which AT&T started to build out in 2017, is ahead of schedule deploying Band 14 coverage, company officials said in a statement.  The company also plans to install Band 14 capabilities on new and existing AT&T cell sites, to reach several hundred thousand additional square miles. Over 1,000 new purpose-built sites are also part of the initial FirstNet expansion to connect rural, remote and tribal areas. 

More than 98% of the population is now covered by cell sites with permanent backup power solutions. As AT&T builds new cell sites, it is also deploying fixed generators when feasible. For places where a permanent backup power solution isn’t possible, AT&T said its FirstNet Response Operations and AT&T Network Disaster Recovery programs offer extended battery life and portable power generators as needed to help first responders operate faster, safer and more effectively.

When the recent snowstorms and power outages hit Texas, AT&T rolled out “an arsenal of additional network recovery equipment to support customers and first responders, including SatCOLTs and generators across the storm’s path,” the company said in a Feb. 19 network status update. (SatCOLT stands for Satellite Cell on Light Truck.) “Our teams and FirstNet liaisons are in contact with federal, state and local officials on our deployment efforts to support public safety and the communities in the in impacted areas.”

In January, FirstNet announced several new features to improve communications coverage, including Z-Axis for FirstNet, compact rapid deployables, LMR interoperability for FirstNet push-to-talk and MegaRange, a high-power user equipment solution that uses specially designed FirstNet Ready modems to improve uplink data speeds at the edge of the network and provide a more reliable coverage area.

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