More than 10,000 public safety agencies and organizations across the country have subscribed to the FirstNet pubic safety mobile broadband service, and more than 1 million FirstNet connections are in service on the FirstNet public safety communications platform, AT&T announced today. AT&T also noted that the FirstNet network is now supported by a 55-foot blimp, the 76th deployable network asset to join the nationwide FirstNet fleet.

AT&T is building the FirstNet network through a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority).

Highlights about the FirstNet blimp:

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  • Can fly up to 1,000 feet, potentially providing over twice the coverage area as compared to other deployable solutions, like Satellite Cells on Wheels and Flying Cells on Wings (COWs).
  • Is capable of withstanding windspeeds up to 70 mph and is fully operational in windspeeds up to 50 mph.
  • Can stay aloft for about two weeks before needing additional helium top-off, giving first responders portable connectivity over an extended period of time.
  • Is tethered to a trailer to provide either satellite or wireline backhaul.
  • Reduces the need for multiple ground-based portable cell sites, freeing those dedicated assets to be used by other agencies nationwide.

“Public safety is called upon to handle emergencies every single day. They have to be ready for the worst with the best tools to help them respond safely, efficiently and effectively,” said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T, in a prepared statement. “We’re honored to see FirstNet play a supporting role in that response for thousands of agencies across the country.”

Like the other portable assets – including three Flying COWs – FirstNet One will be available 24/7 at no additional charge to FirstNet subscribers. Company officials see the blimp being helpful for disasters like last year’s Hurricane Michael, where FirstNet assets were deployed for more than three months in the Florida panhandle.

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