FirstNet adoption tops 15,000 agencies, 1.9 million connections, AT&T says
FirstNet provided more than 1.9 million LTE connections to more than 15,000 public-safety agencies as of the end of 2020, nationwide FirstNet contractor AT&T reported this week as part of its earnings release for the final quarter of 2020.
Noted in AT&T’s investor-briefing document released on Wednesday, the latest FirstNet adoption figures represent the third consecutive quarter in which the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) gained about 200,000 new connections and 1,000 agencies.
In December 2019, AT&T announced that FirstNet adoption had surpassed the thresholds of 1 million connections and 10,000 agencies. Since then, FirstNet adoption has grown significantly, resulting in the NPSBN supporting an additional 5,000 agencies—about a 50% increase—and 900,000 connections, which represent an increase of about 90%.
AT&T also noted that it received $1.063 billion last year in payments from the FirstNet Authority for meeting buildout milestones as part of the 5-year deployment plan that is part of the 25-year agreement with the FirstNet Authority.
AT&T has been reimbursed a total of $3.776 billion from FirstNet through 2020, based on information included in AT&T’s most recent quarterly earnings and the company’s 2019 annual report. AT&T forecasts that it again expects to receive about $1 billion in FirstNet reimbursements during 2021.
Under its contract with the FirstNet Authority, AT&T could receive as much as $6.5 billion by completing its initial NPSBN buildout obligations and developing specific public-safety technological capabilities in accordance with an agreed rollout timetable.
Last year, AT&T officials said that the initial NPSBN buildout plan was more than 80% complete about a year ahead of schedule, but the carrier giant has not updated the overall FirstNet deployment progress in several months, although AT&T and the FirstNet Authority have released state-by-state buildout details throughout 2020.
AT&T CEO John Stankey did not mention the FirstNet adoption figures during the quarterly earnings call, but he did note that the FirstNet initiative is playing a significant role, providing the carrier with new wireless subscribers and driving improvements in AT&T’s wireless-network coverage and reliability.
Stankey said that he hopes AT&T will be “winning in the public sector with our FirstNet abilities” as part of the company’s effort to attract “high-value customers.” Meanwhile, the network improvements—many of which have been attributed to the company’s FirstNet deployment efforts, which also has been leveraged to deploy 5G—are helping AT&T reduce its customer turnover, or churn.
“To be the industry leader in churn this quarter, I think we called it right,” Stankey said during the earning call. “We said that we don’t have customers that are upset about our network. They like it. We don’t have customers that are upset about our service. They’re satisfied with our service.”
During the earnings call, AT&T officials did not mention the Dec. 25 explosion in Nashville at a key network hub that caused network disruptions and outages in several states.