AT&T-FirstNet launches Band 14 HPUE, z-axis location

AT&T-FirstNet is now offering first responders vertical location capabilities in more than 100 markets, ahead of an April 2021 FCC deadline for having the technology in place to support 911 callers on mobile devices.

The z-axis location information is one of several new technology offerings for public safety that AT&T-FirstNet announced this week. The others are high-power user equipment in Band 14, which it has dubbed “FirstNet MegaRange”, and a new compact deployable that can be purchased by departments and used to connect to FirstNet when other coverage is not available.

The carrier says that z-axis information is available in more than 105 U.S. markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco and that markets are being added weekly to give public safety “a new level of indoor spatial awareness not previously available using traditional GPS-based location methods.” The first app that integrates the information from AT&T-FirstNet is from Intrepid Networks, which offers a situational awareness platform, Response for FirstNet, that includes services like mapping, information sharing and push-to-talk voice.

In addition to the z-axis capability, AT&T-FirstNet said that its standards-based mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) now supports Land Mobile Radio-to-LTE interoperability, so that responders using LMR can talk with others using FirstNet’s MCPTT. The capability is enabled through a Radio Over IP (RoIP) gateway and “seamlessly integrates with almost any LMR system,” according to an AT&T blog post about the interoperability. “Our intention is to ensure FirstNet capabilities are designed to interoperate with the thousands of LMR networks currently in use so that the promise of integrated voice, data and video capabilities for public safety group communications is realized,” the company said. AT&T-FirstNet noted that it now has 11 devices approved for FirstNet PTT.

The public-safety network partnership also added new options for high-power user equipment (HPUE), initially in the form of two modems, which operate at higher power levels in Band 14 to improve cell-edge coverage or better in-building penetration. In addition, public safety agencies can now purchase their own deployable network assets that connect to the FirstNet network, including compact cells-on-wheels (COWs) which link to the cellular network via satellite and can be activated by one person within minutes.

“These innovative mission-driven solutions are equipping first responders with better situational awareness – whether conducting a search and rescue mission in a remote area or on the upper floors of a burning building – all while helping to ensure a seamless, interoperable connection,” said Jason Porter, SVP of the FirstNet program at AT&T.

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