The state of Illinois, with outlined county borders; a cell tower.

The FirstNet Network Expands Across Illinois to Advance Public Safety Communications Capabilities

Illinois’ first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications with the addition of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites and other network enhancements at nearly 1,500 existing sites.  This new infrastructure is a part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety.

“This is good news for the public safety community and the Illinois residents that first responders work to protect in Illinois.  The FirstNet high-speed public safety broadband platform was developed by first responders following the attacks of 9/11, and additional FirstNet coverage will bring more tools to help police departments and first responders throughout Illinois,” said Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. 

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It’s built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government.

That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure Illinois first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Plus, it’s giving first responders unthrottled access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Illinois, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Illinois first responders:

  • Purpose-built network enhancements –19 counties across Illinois– including McLean, Kane, Iroquois, Fulton, Champaign, Kankakee, La Salle, Livingston,  Woodford, Macoupin, Kendall, Fayette, Jersey, Pope, Massac, Edwards and White– now have  FirstNet cell sites. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it’s about where first responders need connectivity. That’s what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Band 14 has also been added on nearly 1,500 existing sites across Illinois, including in markets throughout Illinois—, including Chicago, Moline, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal, Kankakee, Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, Alton, Granite City, Jo Daviess County, Bureau County, Mercer County, Adams County, Mason County, Montgomery County, Vermilion County and Washington County.
  • Reaching Rural Illinois – FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. That’s why connecting remote parts of America is one of our top priorities. We’re collaborating with rural network providers to help build out additional LTE coverage and extend FirstNet’s reach in rural and tribal communities.
  • Public safety-specific advanced capabilities – FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.
  • Unparalleled emergency support –Illinois agencies on FirstNet also have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergencies at no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies – We’ve also expanded the benefits of FirstNet for Illinois agencies – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for life at no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile—Unlimited plans. This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

“Illinois’ first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” said Eileen Mitchell, president, AT&T Illinois. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need. Working with public safety we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.” 

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark. During National Police Week in May, AT&T recognized police officers’ service and sacrifice with support to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, which provided meals to 6,000 Chicago Police Department officers on the street and on duty across every police district in the city.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Illinois’ public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Illinois’ first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.” 

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, this new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available. 

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com

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