Created in the aftermath of September 11, AT & T’s FirstNet The public safety network was designed to be the foundation of mission-critical communications for first responders. Over the past year, that goal has been put to the test as emergency services have responded Forest fires, hurricanes and a raging virus. According to a recent report on FirstNet, first responders consumed more than double the average consumer’s mobile data during the pandemic. To meet their growing connectivity needs, AT&T upgrades its public safety network 5G + millimeter wave footprint (in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 locations). The service is already available in Houston and is being rolled out to additional sites in April as part of a phased, multi-year deployment, the carrier said.
First responders in an area with 5G + will take and still receive calls over LTE, but the FirstNet network will be able to upgrade to 5G + if it determines it to be the best route for mobile data traffic. According to AT&T, this shared spectrum approach means emergency services will get faster data speeds without sacrificing stable voice communications over LTE.
Of course, nothing prevents first responders from simply using commercial services like the rest of the public, but AT&T says its “personalized” network offers its own distinct advantages. One of those touted benefits, also announced today, is turn-to-heart encryption. This added level of protection means that FirstNet traffic will be secure across the entire network architecture, from the cell tower, through the backhaul, to the core and back.
AT&T says its public safety network is the first to offer the full encryption system nationwide. It is currently rolling out security upgrades to cell towers across the country, with Houston and Cleveland being the first to come online this month, and nationwide completion is expected in the first quarter of next year. .