Public-safety adoption of FirstNet spikes during the past month, according to AT&T
FirstNet has seen a marked increase in public-safety agency adoption, with more than 1,000 subscribing to the service during the past month, according to officials from AT&T, which is tasked with building and maintaining the nationwide public-safety broadband network.
More than 2,500 public-safety agencies—representing a total of more than 150,000 connections—have joined FirstNet to date, according to a press release issued this week by AT&T. In comparison, the carrier previously reported that “nearly 1,500” public-safety agencies had subscribed to the service as of July 20.
“We’ve recently seen a spike in the number of public safety agencies subscribing to FirstNet,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president for AT&T-FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet is designed for every first responder in the country – for both their agency provided and their personal device. It offers enhanced security on a dedicated network that prioritizes first responder communications. And it doesn’t throttle.”
Stacy Schwartz, a vice president at AT&T-FirstNet, said that she believes there are number of reasons for the recent uptick in public-safety agencies adopting FirstNet as their broadband wireless provider. Greater awareness of FirstNet and its offerings—whether the source of the information is FirstNet, AT&T or word-of-mouth within the first-responder community—is a major cause, but other factors also are having an impact, she said.
“In the last month or so, certainly the budget cycles have certainly helped, as people are looking their options,” Schwartz said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “More importantly, I think there’s been a great deal of activity in the media, and recent news has created a great deal of inquiry and response about FirstNet, what we do and how we could better support public safety. It’s a combination of elements, but we’ve just seen a rapid momentum.
“While we’re proud of the aggregate number [of FirstNet subscribers], what I’m most excited about is that—in the last 30-60 days—we’ve seen the number of agencies adopting nearly double. That, I think, speaks to the momentum that we have and the education that’s out there about what FirstNet can do to support public safety.”
Schwartz said the 2,500 figure includes entities from both the “primary”—fire, EMS, law-enforcement, 911 and emergency-management users—and “extended primary” categories of public safety that FirstNet is designed to serve. In addition, AT&T has seen FirstNet adoption from a “a mix” of previous AT&T subscribing agencies and those who are new to broadband or have used services from other carriers in the past, she said.
Agencies are adopting FirstNet in different ways, with some changing all subscriptions to FirstNet and others subscribing to the service on a more limited basis to determine whether it is appropriate for their specific use cases, Schwartz said.
“We’re getting people who are using devices that are using devices that didn’t necessarily use a smartphone or a mobile device in their environment,” she said. “Some of that adoption cadence is gated by the fact that this is something new in their environment, and [agencies are determining] how does this fit into their daily best practices.
“It’s kind of a mix. You’ll see some that are just very comfortable going in, so there’s maybe an initial test and [then] they’re moving. Others want to trial it in different aspects of their operations. With others, it might be a particular unit that is just using smartphones for the first time, and they’re trying to figure out how this works into their operational procedure.”
One notable area of FirstNet use has been along the West Coast, where firefighting units have been responding to wildfires for months.
“Our crews have been battling a number of wildfires across the state of Oregon. And during each, FirstNet has proved its value as public safety’s network platform,” Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Duyck said in a prepared statement. “From boosting communications at base camp during our response to the Miles Fire to connecting our firefighters on the front line of the Ramsey Canyon Fire, we’ve been able to count on our FirstNet service to elevate our ability to effectively and efficiently achieve our mission.”
FirstNet Authority CEO Mike Poth said that first responders will be able to rely on the FirstNet system as a long-term solution.
“We’ll continue to work side-by-side with the public-safety community and AT&T to ensure FirstNet delivers for them today and for years to come,” Poth said in a prepared statement.