U.S. Cellular has enhanced its services for first responders and other emergency response teams. The new functionality provides a dedicated broadband LTE network that segregates mission-critical public safety traffic from commercial and consumer traffic.
“At U.S. Cellular, we understand the central role that first responders have to keep us safe, and we are committed to providing them reliable and consistent communication services,” Jim Anetsberger, the Vice President of Business Strategy at U.S. Cellular, said in a press release. “We have and will continue to make significant investments in our network and public safety solutions so first responders can stay in constant communication and access the data they need to provide the best response.”
The offering is designed to prioritize public safety traffic and, when necessary, to preempt commercial traffic. U.S. Cellular is offering first responder-only plans that include unlimited data, voice and text with no speed caps.
U.S. Cellular’s first responder and emergency personnel initiative is similar to the higher profile FirstNet initiative that is a public/private partnership between the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T.
In late August of last year, FirstNet said that more than 2,500 safety agencies across the country had joined its initiative. As of that time, there were more than 150,000 FirstNet connections.
First responder connectivity has long been an important issue. When an emergency occurs, two things are almost certain to happen: Cell phone use goes up as people call loved ones and, in many cases, cell phone towers are taken offline due to power outages.
Prioritization by companies such as U.S. Cellular and AT&T is considered a key step in moderating these issues. Another step forward is standardization that will enable communications and data transfer between different entities – such as police and fire departments – and across municipal and state lines.