FirstNet base up to 3,600 agencies and 250,000 lines
Speaking during the recent Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, Scott Mair, president of AT&T Operations, provided an update on FirstNet adoption and how that $40 billion network build sets the stage for 5G.
Referencing hurricanes Michael and Florence, as well as wildfires in California, Mair said AT&T’s network performed really, really well, and noted that others carriers impacted by the storm used AT&T’s network. “Performance always brings in an opportunity to sign people up.”
He tallied 3,600 first responder agencies, comprising some 250,000 lines, as the current FirstNet customer base. In terms of applications, “Primarily those are voice lines at this point. IoT will come because there’s going to be a lot of IoT applications. The first responder community has unique and specific needs.”
In the broader context of leveraging the public responder network build to provide broader network enhancements, Mair said, “That FirstNet trigger then allows us to go touch the towers and put those capabilities up,” including carrier aggregation, 256 QAM and 4X4 MIMO, all LTE-Advanced features. He said by the end of 2019, as compared to the end of 2016, AT&T will have 50% more spectrum in service. Radios being installed can be upgraded over the air to support the 5G New Radio standard.
“We’re putting a lot of spectrum to work,” he said. “That really enhances the quality of the network, both speeds and reliability. You look at ’17 and ’18…more FirstNet and more 5G. And 19 is going to be more of the same. We’re off to a great start. We’re really, really aggressive with our build right now.
As it relates to 5G, Mair noted that adoption is dependent on the device ecosystem. AT&T last week said it will have a Samsung handset in the first-half of next year that supports its millimeter wave 5G network, and promised a second Samsung handset in the second-half of 2019, which will support both millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz 5G networks. The launch device is a mobile hot spot.
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