FirstNet: Supporting First Responders During The COVID-19 Outbreak

In 2012, Congress created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and authorized it to build, operate, and maintain FirstNet, a single, nationwide broadband network in response to the communication failures that occurred during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, the FirstNet network is working as Congress intended and public safety needs. The dedicated communications platform supports public safety, health care workers, and those who support them during their daily operations and during disasters, including pandemics and public health emergencies.

As police, fire, EMS, public health, emergency management and military personnel work around the clock to assess and mitigate the COVID-19 spread across the nation, the FirstNet® communications platform – built and operated by AT&T in a public-private partnership with FirstNet Authority – is bringing advanced capabilities to first responders across the country.

Already, The Impacts of FirstNet Have Been Real, Tangible, and Lifesaving.

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Reliable connectivity and advanced capabilities for first responders helps them keep themselves and those they serve safer. As men and women across the country stand on the front lines to support our nation’s response to COVID-19, they know, with confidence, FirstNet delivers the unthrottled connectivity and priority communications they need to respond during this public health emergency.

More than 12,000 agencies and organizations – including FEMA and U.S. Coast Guard to name a few – are using over 1.3 million FirstNet connections to respond to real life emergencies and disasters every day.

Network Status

Since the onset of the outbreak, FirstNet has continued to be nimble, adaptable and ready to scale. We are continuously deploying additional assets and adding capacity to our network. We are seeing public safety, healthcare institutions, and health departments take advantage of our purpose-built network during this unprecedented public health emergency and witnessing as eligible subscribers, seeing the benefits firsthand, migrate to FirstNet.

Performance for first responders on our FirstNet network has been excellent. Priority and preemption on Band 14 spectrum – the nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the U.S. government specifically for FirstNet – is working as intended and first responders are free of any commercial congestion.

As of April 26, 2020, the FirstNet Response Operations Group has responded to 54 requests from FirstNet subscribed agencies for COVID-19 network support, and we currently have 26 deployable assets or other connectivity solutions supporting our FirstNet subscribers at quarantine locations, testing sites and field hospitals.

FirstNet’s Dedicated Fleet of Portable Assets

Public safety agencies on FirstNet have access to a nationwide, dedicated fleet of 76 land-based and airborne portable cell sites, including 3 Flying COWs™ and the FirstNet One “blimp.”

Stationed across the country, these dedicated FirstNet network deployable assets are available 24/7 at the request of and free of charge to FirstNet subscribers to boost coverage, such as at field hospitals in remote areas that may have limited connectivity.

So far, we’ve deployed assets, optimized the network or expedited the provisioning of FirstNet Ready™ devices to support quarantine zones, airports, emergency operation centers (EOCs) and other priority public safety locations across the country.

Now, We are Making New & Advanced Capabilities Available to First Responders Nationwide:

  • First responder public safety agencies on FirstNet can get premium FirstNet Ready™ smartphone devices for free for their agency paid users to connect them to critical communications when and where they need it most.
  • Developed from the ground up specifically for and with public safety, FirstNet Push-to-Talk is designed to enable public safety to use their smartphones, feature phones, and specialized ultra-rugged devices like they would use a two-way radio, with highly reliable, high-performance calling. FirstNet Push-to-Talk is the first-ever nationwide mission-critical standards-based push-to-talk solution to launch in the U.S.


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