FirstNet Certified devices that support 5G mobile broadband provide the availability and performance necessary for mission-critical communication during emergencies
More than 21,800 American public safety agencies and support organizations have adopted FirstNet to manage daily operations and respond in emergency situations with the reliable backing of a dedicated, always-on wireless broadband network. In February 2022, the devices used by these public safety groups accounted for more than 3.7 million connections nationwide, and as access to 5G for first responders expands beyond its current markets, that number will continue to grow.
With increasing access to faster speeds and lower latency, it’s important for public safety agencies to understand the current state of FirstNet and the steps they can take to select a FirstNet router and prepare for a more ubiquitous 5G first responder network.
Who can use FirstNet?
Originally built for first responders including law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, and 911 dispatch teams, FirstNet now also supports other industries such as healthcare providers, utility workers, and school transportation fleets. Essential personnel supporting first responders before, during, or after an emergency are eligible to subscribe to FirstNet to aid in their provision of medical care, disaster response and restoration, and more.
To meet the mission-critical communication needs of these various teams, FirstNet employs network priority and preemption policies. These policies not only push FirstNet devices to the front of the line when accessing the network, but in severe circumstances, they also give first responders VIP network access by moving or momentarily disconnecting public and commercial users to make room for FirstNet subscribers. When networks are particularly congested, priority and preemption allow first responders to seamlessly connect and communicate.
The LA County Fire Department was one of the first organizations in the country to take advantage of FirstNet, which replaced both their privately built LTE network and their reliance on the highly congested commercial LTE network in the Los Angeles area. With premier access to the network through FirstNet, these first responders, firefighters, and other mutual aid partners could communicate, transmit data, and quickly access necessary applications, even at times when the network was at capacity, such as rush hour or in the throes of fire season. As advancements in network technologies and equipment are made, their response efficacy will continue to improve.
The future of FirstNet with 5G
Many agencies are asking, “Does FirstNet have 5G coverage?” Access to 5G for first responders is still in its adolescence, available on limited devices, and only in select markets and venues throughout the U.S. For those who can access FirstNet on a 5G network, they are afforded the benefits of increased speeds and ultra-low latency at no additional cost. On top of that, FirstNet subscribers can shift seamlessly from 5G back to LTE via a FirstNet certified router as they move between coverage areas and take advantage of priority and preemption for their respective data packets.
Thanks to reduced latency and increased bandwidth on the network, 5G connectivity on FirstNet means public safety and health professionals can take advantage of data heavy IoT and video solutions that enable them to perform their jobs efficiently during response and recovery assignments. On-the-job applications vary widely, including the transmission of patient data to a hospital from inside an ambulance, or streaming live video from a patrol car to response teams at a police station.
The impact of FirstNet certifications on 5G equipment purchases
FirstNet eligibility requires more than a job title and an available cellular broadband network. This dedicated network is built with strict regard to public safety’s unique specifications and requirements, and so are the devices that access it. Beyond cellphones, these devices include FirstNet routers and modems, FirstNet hotspots, connected devices in vehicles, IoT, and more.
Currently, a handful of 5G adapters and in-vehicle routers are are FirstNet certified and approved for use on FirstNet and able to pass traffic on a 5G network. Cradlepoint products with this certification include:
- R1900 Series 5G Ruggedized Router
- E3000 Series 5G Enterprise Router
- W1850 Series 5G Wideband Adapter
- W2005 Series 5G Wideband Adapter
- MC400 5G Modular Modem
With these products, 5G for first responders becomes a reality as public safety agencies can deploy FirstNet 5G connectivity and take advantage of key benefits such as ultra-low latency and ultra-high speeds.
By purchasing a 5G FirstNet router now, public safety and health professionals can take full advantage of improved FirstNet 5G cellular broadband performance today. Additionally, first responders can continue to maintain always-on priority and preemption for voice communications over LTE while the FirstNet network determines the most efficient route for data traffic, whether on the 5G or LTE spectrum.