Jason Porterpresident of the public sector and FirstNet at AT&T and a Wash100 Price 2022 recipient, recently participated in the last Executive Spotlight interview with GovCon thread to discuss FirstNet’s impact on the recent modernization of network capabilities for the US Coast Guard and other military branches as well as AT&T’s work with 5G in the education market, the importance that the pandemic has had on global connectivity and more.
“We started building FirstNet in 2017 after winning the contract. Five years later, FirstNet already covers more than 99% of the American population. It is a significant achievement. We also exceeded 95% completion of Band 14 coverage, well ahead of schedule. »
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Jason Porter below:
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GovCon thread: When we last spoke in July, we briefly touched on FirstNet, the First Responders Network. Can you talk a bit more about it and update us on your progress with FirstNet?
Jason Porter: “FirstNet is one of my passions for the public sector. FirstNet supports the mission of saving lives and helping communities. It supports first responders to help them do their job safely.
We have made significant progress with FirstNet. Trust and adoption of FirstNet in the public safety community is growing. We have over 3 million FirstNet connections and over 19,500 public safety agencies and organizations subscribed at the end of 2021.
And we see federal public safety agencies using FirstNet to perform their day-to-day functions and modernize the way they work in our current environment. It’s like putting a whole new tool in their toolbox.
We started building FirstNet in 2017 after winning the contract. Five years later, FirstNet already covers more than 99% of the American population. It is a significant achievement. We also exceeded 95% completion of Band 14 coverage, well ahead of schedule.
We launched more than 370 FirstNet devices to put more equipment in the hands of first responders so they can do their jobs effectively. And we now have over 100 dedicated, deployable assets for our first responders. These include deployable assets such as cellular service provided by specially equipped trucks and drones.
Our country has had another record wildfire season. We have had several severe hurricanes and tornadoes. We are currently in the midst of winter storm season. Added to all this are the challenges caused by the Covid pandemic.
We have provided FirstNet services to support vaccination sites and COVID testing centers across the country. We help doctors, nurses and public safety officials do their jobs. AT&T and FirstNet have been busy using our deployable resources to help COVID test sites and first responders with firefighting, hurricane situations, and just about any natural disaster that occurs. It never stops, and neither do we.
GovCon thread: What can you tell us about the impact of FirstNet on the recent modernization of the US Coast Guard network capabilities and boosting Communication from the Ministry of Defense in the public safety space?
Jason Porter: “It has been phenomenal for us to continue to work with the Ministry of Defense [and the Department of Homeland Security]. The Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force all use FirstNet.
One of the innovative new solutions we have delivered to the Coast Guard is FirstNet® MegaRange™. It consists of high-powered user equipment, operated with the capabilities of proprietary technology, which can significantly increase cellular transmission strength.
We’ve seen how effective our high-powered user equipment is in rural and mountainous areas, but Coast Guard use has allowed us to test the limits of those capabilities along our coasts.
The results have been tremendous. We have demonstrated that FirstNet MegaRange can extend the effective range of a cell site and support multiple video streams up to 28 miles from shore. It is a great success.
We are working with the DoD to demonstrate the benefits of commercially provided networking capabilities and 5G. The DoD is leading the way in 5G innovation and experimentation, and we’ve secured several of their first-slice awards for advancing 5G.
Working with the DoD, we’re exploring features like smart storage at Naval Base San Diego. We are also working with the DoD to test the benefits of 5G-enabled augmented and virtual reality capabilities to support mission planning, training, and operations in entirely new ways.
We are working with the DoD and Air Force to create a modernized base of the future at Tyndall Air Force Base. The base was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. We deployed our experts and equipment to the base within hours of the hurricane to restore connectivity.
And since then, we have been working tirelessly with the Air Force to bring our communications capabilities to the base as it takes shape as a fully modernized military base. We are also prototyping 5G compute and network edge capabilities at Tyndall.
GovCon thread: Tell us more about AT&T’s work with 5G. Where is your 5G rollout and how does it relate to your work with government agencies? What about 5G for the education market?
Jason Porter: “We are seeing 5G being used across the federal landscape. Some federal agencies use it to support experiments and use cases such as remote operations involving drones. We see examples of multi-access edge computing, where the network efficiently delivers cloud capabilities from the nearest point of presence or network hub.
It supports real-time computing capabilities. Robotics is also a huge opportunity for 5G capabilities. We are also seeing a considerable amount of use case development for 5G in education. I believe 5G can revolutionize education; it is already done at the university level.
If you think of universities, they require a layered approach to their communications. They want a big, wide footprint, with a low-band spectrum that protects students as they walk around campus. They want their students to be able to connect reliably at all times.
They also want the security infrastructure to be always connected on this campus. This is their base layer. But they’ll want to have fiber capabilities to support bandwidth demands where students congregate like dorms. They also want 5G in those areas.
Institutions like the University of Missouri are studying how 5G can help reduce energy consumption and emissions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing. 5G is a crucial ingredient in research and study for education. 5G leads us into the future.
GovCon thread: COVID has shed light on the need for improved connectivity in the education market. Can you tell us about AT&T’s work there?
Jason Porter: “My son is part of a robotics team at his high school and he wants to continue at the college level. We started exploring schools, including those putting 5G first. I went to their labs and saw that 5G is a minimum requirement. For something like robotics to take off, it needs 5G services. 5G is the air robots need.
One of the key things that COVID has taught us is that our education system and infrastructure has room to improve dramatically. We have been teaching and learning old technology for a long time and using old methodologies.
Educators, as well as students, are asking for more. They need access to information systems remotely so that their learning is not confined to a classroom or a building. It is important for education today and for the future.
We have committed to providing $2 billion over the next three years to address the digital divide. Where students don’t even have basic connectivity is where we want our money to go. We are excited to connect students and pilot connected learning programs.
The pandemic has shown us that we can be better using the innovations and modernized communication capabilities available today. We expect many significant changes in the coming years.