AT&T pushes ahead with FirstNet, invests $40 million in Vermont

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AT&T pushes ahead with FirstNet, invests $40 million in Vermont

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:17am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine AT&T said today that it has invested nearly $40 million in its Vermont wireless networks during 2016-2018. These investments boost reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for residents and businesses. They've also improved critical services that support Public Safety and first responders using the FirstNet communications platform.

Building upon its current and planned investments in Vermont, including $25 million in federal funding, AT&T continues to extend the reach and increase the capacity of the FirstNet communications platform:

  • Deployed Band 14 spectrum in more than 600 markets nationwide, including communities like Burlington, Bennington, Dover, Morrisville and Waterford.
  • Band 14 is high-quality spectrum provided by the First Responder Network Authority. Its signal covers larger geographic areas with less infrastructure to better support rural communities, and it can better reach in-building in more urban areas as compared to higher-MHz spectrum.
  • Vermont first responders enjoy the fastest overall experience on FirstNet, compared to any commercial network in the nation, thanks to the specialized capabilities enabled by the physically separate and dedicated FirstNet network core, like always-on priority and preemption. 3
  • Public safety agencies subscribed to FirstNet have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 75 deployable network assets. These assets can either be deployed for planned events or called upon in emergencies to help first responders stay connected and operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line.

FirstNet is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority – an independent agency within the federal government. This helps ensure that the FirstNet communications platform and service offerings meet the short- and long-term needs of the public safety community.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was created by Congress in 2012, following recommendations from the 9/11 commission. FirstNet was given the mission of building, deploying and operating the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network with spectrum dedicated to public safety.

In Vermont, the Public Safety Broadband Network Commission (PSBC) was formed by Governor’s Executive Order in 2013 to act as a guiding group to prepare for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). The PSBC is administratively supported by the Department of Public Safety and functions within Radio Technology Services. The Vermont liaison group includes a Single Officer designee and program staff. On March 30, 2017, AT&T was announced as the winning bidder of the contract to build the NPSBN.

On November 29, 2017, Governor Phil Scott announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state's public safety community. This decision followed a recommendation made earlier in November by the PSBC that Vermont allow FirstNet/AT&T to build the network, rather than the state working to build its own. At the end of the national decision period for states, every state and territory choose to opt-in to the federal FirstNet plan.

 In Vermont, according to the Vermont PSBC newsletter from May 2019, AT&T continues work on new site builds.

AT&T has until 2022 to fulfill its commitment to build 36 new tower sites in Vermont. Six of the new tower sites are in Essex County and will be built via a partnership with Great North Woods Wireless. Construction of the Essex County sites will begin in 2019, with plans for the sites to be on air by the end of 2020 or sooner.

As last reported in the PSBC October newsletter, more than half of the new tower sites are being built at locations where there currently is no cell tower. AT&T has contacted landowners at all of the new tower sites and continues work on the engineering process.

Currently, AT&T forecasts that seven new FirstNet sites will be activated in 2019. Additionally, AT&T continues to develop its existing commercial network. They forecast that three new commercial sites will be on-air by the end of this year. All of these sites will have FirstNet capabilities.

An important part of AT&Ts FirstNet buildout plan is upgrading existing towers with Band 14 throughout the country. In Vermont, there are now 14 towns with Band 14 equipment installed. FirstNet subscribers have priority and preemption on all bands of the network. Adding Band 14 to existing towers should increase capacity and coverage for first responders and ensure they will always have access to the network, regardless of the volume of users.

AT&T reports that 7,000 agencies nationwide have subscribed to FirstNet, with 600,000 activated lines. According to AT&T, the subscriber trend is described as being led by existing customers who have shifted to a FirstNet plan.

In Vermont, the PSBC stated, there is a similar trend as existing AT&T public safety customers subscribe to take advantage of competitive prices and a growing product line.

As previously reported to the Department of Public Safety by AT&T, there were almost 2,000 FirstNet subscriber lines that had been activated in Vermont. DPS provides administrative support for the Public Safety Broadband Network Commission. If you have questions about FirstNet or need assistance, please contact us via email at DPS.PSBC@Vermont.gov or by calling (802) 241-5535.

In recommending Vermont opt-in, the PSBC focused on service, coverage, and risk to the State. Below are key reasons cited for an opt-in recommendation.

  • Immediate service - Due to the all-bands approach by AT&T, first responders will have immediate access to all bandwidth owned and operated by AT&T in Vermont and immediate access to priority calling. In an opt-out scenario, Vermont first responders would have to wait for the Band Class 14 network to be built before having access to FirstNet service.
  • Pricing - No first responder is required to use the FirstNet/AT&T network, but must be persuaded to subscribe to the service. The commission anticipates that an opt-in decision will spur competition among cell phone providers and drive down costs for first responders, while enhancing services.
  • Commitment to expanded coverage – In addition to its existing cellular network, AT&T will leverage funds allocated to FirstNet to increase the number of cell sites in Vermont within the next five years, many in areas where first responders currently lack good coverage.
  • No financial cost to Vermont for the network – The financial cost of building, maintaining and operating the network will be born by FirstNet and AT&T. AT&T would be liable for paying any federal financial penalties for failure to attract public safety subscribers in prescribed numbers.

The commission was formed by Governor’s Executive Order in 2013 to guide and prepare for FirstNet in Vermont. Key leadership on the commission represents police, fire and EMS personnel and state agency representatives.

The state is not stopping with FirstNet and the governor signed a sweeping broadband expansion bill into law in June, which is expected to help push better coverage into rural areas of Vermont.

AT&T's wireless network covers more than 99% of all Americans and has become the fastest wireless network in the nation, according to the first quarter 2019 results from tests taken with Speedtest® and analyzed by Ookla®. 2 

In 2018, AT&T made 97 wireless network upgrades in Vermont including :

  • LTE bandwidth expansions
  • LTE carrier jobs

"We're now speeding up our wireless build out plans in Vermont, dedicated to improving our mobile network," said Owen Smith, President of AT&T Vermont. "This investment will also pave the path to 5G mobile services in the years ahead."

The AT&T LTE network covers more than 400 million people in North America.

By building out its 4G LTE network, AT&T is boosting network speeds and capacity, as it continues to expand the availability of our network and upgrade its technology.

Additionally, for the 5th consecutive year we've landed on Fortune magazine's list of the "World's Most Admired" companies. It's also the 6th year in a row we've appeared on the Global Top 50 list – no other telecom company made the Top 50.

Transforming Public Safety Communications
FirstNet is Public Safety's dedicated, nationwide communications platform. It is for all first responders – career and volunteer, urban or rural. It's bringing public safety communications into the 21st century with new, innovative capabilities, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency.

To learn more about our wireless coverage in Vermont or anywhere in the U.S., visit the AT&T Coverage Viewer. For updates on the AT&T wireless network, go to the AT&T network news page.

1 AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.
2 Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q1 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.
3Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® nationwide data average download speeds for Q1 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

*About AT&T Communications
We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we innovate to improve lives. We have the nation's fastest wireless network.** And according to America's biggest test, we have the nation's best wireless network.*** We're building FirstNet just for first responders and creating next-generation mobile 5G. With DIRECTVDIRECTV NOW and WatchTV, we deliver entertainment people love to talk about. Our smart, highly secure solutions serve nearly 3 million global businesses – nearly all of the Fortune 1000. And worldwide, our spirit of service drives employees to give back to their communities.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at about.att.com. Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at facebook.com/att and on YouTube at youtube.com/att.

© 2019 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q1 2019. 
***According to America's biggest test as announced by Global Wireless Solutions last fall.

FirstNet® and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks of the First Responder Network Authority.

To define a market, we rely on the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA), as established by the United States Office of Management and Budget.  Minor differences, if any, between annual totals reflect annual updating of market boundaries in our record systems.

From FORTUNE Magazine. 2019 Time Inc. FORTUNE© and The World's Most Admired Companies® are registered trademarks of Time Inc. and are used under License. FORTUNE and Time Inc. are not affiliated with, and do not endorse products or services of, AT&T.

SOURCE BURLINGTON, Vt., July 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- AT&T www.att.com