FirstNet tops 1.5 million connections, 13,000 agencies, according to AT&T
FirstNet is supporting more than 1.5 million connections that are being used by more than 13,000 subscribing agencies through June, representing an adoption rate that likely doubles the number of FirstNet connections reported at this time last year, according to figures released today by AT&T, the nationwide contractor for FirstNet.
AT&T CEO John Stankey cited FirstNet as a “growth” area for the carrier but did not mention the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) initiative during the company’s second-quarter earnings call this morning. During the same call, AT&T CFO John Stephens said that AT&T’s buildout of FirstNet “continues to run ahead of plan” and noted the role that the FirstNet deployment has played in allowing AT&T to offer low-band 5G nationwide—a milestone announced today.
In addition to these statements, AT&T’s written investor briefing for the second quarter provided some metrics about the adoption rate of FirstNet.
By topping the 1.5 million-connection threshold during the first half of this year, AT&T likely has more than doubled the number of connections it had a year ago, when the company reported more than 700,000 connections through the second quarter of 2019. During the first half of this year, FirstNet has gained about 500,000 connections—about a 50% increase since January—based on AT&T’s report of more than 1.0 million connections through the fourth quarter of 2019.
AT&T also reported a significant increase in the number of agencies utilizing FirstNet offerings, with the more than 13,000 agencies cited today representing about a 30% increase when compared to the more than 10,000 agencies that subscribed to FirstNet at the end of 2019.
AT&T has not provided a breakdown of its FirstNet adoption data, in terms of categorizing the types of connections—smartphones, tablets, IoT sensors, etc.—or the types of agencies that have subscribed to the NPSBN service.
Other than Stephens’ statement that the FirstNet buildout is “ahead of plan,” AT&T official did not offer any updates about the NPSBN deployment. However, AT&T executives previously have acknowledged that the carrier has completed more than 80% of the planned FirstNet build—a buildout milestone that AT&T was not required to reach until next March, according to the contract agreement with the FirstNet Authority.
As crews for AT&T install 700 MHz Band 14 equipment at cell sites—both existing sites and new sites to meet coverage promises made in the FirstNet state plans—they also deploy 5G-ready equipment that leverages 20 MHz swaths of WCS and AWS-3 spectrum. When combined with the Band 14 airwaves, AT&T can add 60 MHz of new spectrum to its operations from a given cell site.
This approach is also cited as a primary reason why AT&T expects to be able to offer nationwide 5G connectivity in the sub-6 GHz bands by the end of the summer. Stankey announced that AT&T today officially began offering 5G coverage nationwide, which is deemed to include coverage of more than 200 million in U.S. population, according to AT&T resources.
AT&T has expanded its network coverage significantly in recent years—including in rural areas—driven in large part by the Band 14 deployment obligations under its 25-year contract with the FirstNet Authority. Earlier this year, figures from AT&T, Verizon and a third-party industry source revealed that Verizon’s one-time 450,000-square-mile coverage advantage a few years ago has narrowed to 70,000 square miles nationwide.
Recently, AT&T has been detailing the expansion of its wireless broadband networks on a state-by-state basis.