FirstNet by AT&T

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
User avatar
Topic Author
Offshore
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:43 am
Location: Michigan's West Coast

FirstNet by AT&T

Post by Offshore » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:20 am

If you are a FirstNet subscriber, this post is directed towards you.

On AT&T, I lose service in some hospitals I enter. My colleagues on Verizon don't because the Verizon towers are on the roof, so that tells me cell service is not blocked inside these buildings, it's all about signal strength.

Does FirstNet provide better service in buildings than the standard AT&T network? Specifically interested in telephone service, not data. What has been your experience?

HEDGEFUNDIE
Posts: 3973
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:06 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:50 am

FirstNet is a public safety data network.

For voice, why aren’t you using your Motorola radio?

bob60014
Posts: 1298
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by bob60014 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:58 am

Compatible phones are also used on Firstnet.

HEDGEFUNDIE
Posts: 3973
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:06 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:04 am

bob60014 wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:58 am
Compatible phones are also used on Firstnet.
Yes, smartphones for the data apps.

FirstNet was never intended for mission critical voice. That’s why you have your radio.

User avatar
Topic Author
Offshore
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:43 am
Location: Michigan's West Coast

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by Offshore » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:47 am

Hedgefundie,
I'll keep this brief because I don't want get involved in answering off topic questions. You are incorrect. FirstNet was, in fact, developed for "mission critical" communication. That is point, for first responders to not be lost to communication failure. Second, not all first responders are issued a radio. 65% of firefighters are volunteer and are not issued a radio (I am not a firefighter but the example makes the point).

So, without getting bogged down in who I am or what I do the question remains, is FirstNet service any different than standard AT&T in regards to signal strength or building penetration? Thank you for those who may be able, and choose to respond.

HEDGEFUNDIE
Posts: 3973
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:06 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:54 am

Offshore wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:47 am
Hedgefundie,
I'll keep this brief because I don't want get involved in answering off topic questions. You are incorrect. FirstNet was, in fact, developed for "mission critical" communication. That is point, for first responders to not be lost to communication failure. Second, not all first responders are issued a radio. 65% of firefighters are volunteer and are not issued a radio (I am not a firefighter but the example makes the point).

So, without getting bogged down in who I am or what I do the question remains, is FirstNet service any different than standard AT&T in regards to signal strength or building penetration? Thank you for those who may be able, and choose to respond.
https://urgentcomm.com/collections/most ... -in-doubt/

The issue you are facing is exactly why FirstNet is not (yet) ready for mission critical voice.

Since this is Bogleheads, let me make a financial point. If FirstNet was fully ready to supplant LMR as the primary voice tool for first responders, you would see Motorola Solutions stock (MSI) drop precipitously. And yet it has absolutely killed it over the past 5 years, returning 25% CAGR.

User avatar
southerndoc
Posts: 1106
Joined: Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:07 pm
Location: Atlanta

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by southerndoc » Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:39 pm

FirstNet is not fully deployed yet. It is developed for mission critical communications. Radios can often get bogged down and may not travel more than a few miles without robust repeater systems. Not every incident is limited to communication within the area of the incident. Frequently calls must be made outside the hot zone to support staff.

FirstNet utilizes AT&T's LTE bands in addition to another band (band 14, 700 MHz). Band 14 provides decent penetration into buildings. Unfortunately, AT&T has not completely built band 14 nationwide and not all phones are capable of taking advantage of it.

One of the benefits of FirstNet is that you get priority over AT&T customers on the same bandwidth. Ever gone to a football game and noticed that your data rate is at a crawl? This is unlikely to happen in areas where FirstNet is deployed. You will be given priority over other users. Likewise, if you and several AT&T customers make calls at one time, you are given routing priority over the other customers.

Verizon has always been known to penetrate buildings better. I'm not familiar with Verizon's bands, so not sure if AT&T's band 14 will penetrate better than Verizon's.

User avatar
Topic Author
Offshore
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:43 am
Location: Michigan's West Coast

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by Offshore » Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:29 pm

Fascinating, southerndoc. Appreciate your insights. I am very much tempted to try it.

MasCowbell
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2019 12:49 am

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by MasCowbell » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:05 pm

Never thought I would see a FirstNet discussion on Bogleheads...

As an IT director for a mid-sized public safety agency in the Midwest, let me provide my two cents.

FirstNet was conceived of as a dedicated public safety broadband network. What is the key use case for broadband? It’s data, not voice.

Imagine video from cameras around a burglarized store live streamed to responding police cars, and to smart glasses worn by officers on foot.

Or floor plans of a burning building sent directly to firefighters’ helmets equipped with heads up displays.

That is the FirstNet vision.

Mission critical voice over FirstNet is being tested still but nowhere near ready for primetime. Voice over LTE is not even widespread for consumers; I think it will be another decade or more before it becomes reliable enough for first responders. I don’t know of any PS agency in the country willing to replace their P25 radios with FirstNet devices (supplement, sure). And not for lack of incentive. The typical Motorola APX radio costs $2,500 compared to $700 for a hardened Sonim smartphone.

Relying on FirstNet for mission critical voice right now is close to negligence, IMHO.

9liner
Posts: 182
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:03 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by 9liner » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:46 pm

Note that you must be a first responder (with a valid ID) to take advantage of FirstNet.

As a former FirstNet subscriber, I'll offer my two cents. I originally subscribed to their service for two reasons: 1. The price was better than a normal civilian plan with unlimited data/hotspot. 2. The promise of ZERO throttling and dedicated bandwidth in the event of a critical event.

My experience with FirstNet was less than desirable. It did not provide any additional coverage. On the contrary, my everyday coverage was actually WORSE than my previous carrier (Verizon). Until Band 14 is built out, I fail to see how it will truly benefit you as an end-user. I do not have any appreciable data to say that I had better coverage during times of congestion (i.e. sporting events, concerts, etc.). The experience was such that I canceled my FirstNet plan and ported my number to Verizon Visible.

Edit: Also of note, if you have any type of multiple line plan such as additional lines for your family, those lines are not eligible for FirstNet coverage.

User avatar
southerndoc
Posts: 1106
Joined: Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:07 pm
Location: Atlanta

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by southerndoc » Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:07 pm

We are about to adopt it at the fire department where I am medical director. However, it will be used to supplement our communications system and not replace it.

@9liner, FirstNet has dropped a lot of the requirements. They are now considering emergency nurses and physicians as eligible to sign up for FirstNet. Several of my residents have switched to FirstNet because of better rates. Also, FirstNet is better than AT&T, but its coverage is often subpar to Verizon. Verizon penetrates more buildings than AT&T, Tmobile, and Sprint in general.

I'm in Atlanta, which seems to have better coverage with FirstNet. I think Band 14 is probably built out fairly well in my area. I have both AT&T and FirstNet on my iPhone, and when the signal is low/absent on AT&T I usually still have 1-2 bars on FirstNet.

Turbo29
Posts: 618
Joined: Tue May 01, 2018 7:12 am

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by Turbo29 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:38 pm

southerndoc wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:39 pm
Verizon has always been known to penetrate buildings better. I'm not familiar with Verizon's bands, so not sure if AT&T's band 14 will penetrate better than Verizon's.
Much of Verizon's network has has the 800Mhz band as this was the band used by the legacy carriers back in the AMPS days. In many markets GTE cellular was one of the two carriers. GTE was acquired by Bell Atlantic and the name of the resulting entity was Verizon.

criticalmass
Posts: 1407
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by criticalmass » Sun Nov 10, 2019 1:32 am

Turbo29 wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:38 pm
southerndoc wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:39 pm
Verizon has always been known to penetrate buildings better. I'm not familiar with Verizon's bands, so not sure if AT&T's band 14 will penetrate better than Verizon's.
Much of Verizon's network has has the 800Mhz band as this was the band used by the legacy carriers back in the AMPS days. In many markets GTE cellular was one of the two carriers. GTE was acquired by Bell Atlantic and the name of the resulting entity was Verizon.
True, and now AT&T has a lot of 700 Mhz, and T-Mobile has acquired a bunch of 600 Mhz from the last television channel auction. 600-800 Mhz generally will (should) do better deep inside buildings than the higher frequencies. -But- this also depends on the handset. The handset must have a support these bands and it must have a decent antenna that works well. So you might get subpar service with one model, and another model might get spectacular service with the same carrier.

criticalmass
Posts: 1407
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by criticalmass » Sun Nov 10, 2019 1:33 am

Offshore wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:20 am
If you are a FirstNet subscriber, this post is directed towards you.

On AT&T, I lose service in some hospitals I enter. My colleagues on Verizon don't because the Verizon towers are on the roof, so that tells me cell service is not blocked inside these buildings, it's all about signal strength.

Does FirstNet provide better service in buildings than the standard AT&T network? Specifically interested in telephone service, not data. What has been your experience?
Some carriers may have a pico/femto cell inside the building as well. Generally the carriers will install these at no charge or a nominal charge, or they might allow the owner to install their own device. Then coverage can be very good inside a building. But if they have this for Verizon and not AT&T/T-Mobile, then Verizon service will probably work a lot better.

User avatar
Bruce
Posts: 355
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:02 am
Location: Alaska

Re: FirstNet by AT&T

Post by Bruce » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:19 am

I am a FN user. Joined because I get it through work. My Experience is the network performance varies greatly depending on location of the tower compared to the user. But that will be true for any cell user.

There is no generic yes or no answer to your question. It is specific to your use case at a particular location, and how close your location is to a cell tower of your brand of carrier. All carriers are adding sites and capacity to improve their networks, including FN, and they will get better over time, but perhaps not at your particular location.

With a FN sim chip in your device you get higher priority on the ATT network then the typical ATT customer and priority access to Band 14 where it exists (the FN spectrum leased to ATT) as those band 14 antennae’s are installed in more and more ATT towers and locations. FN is built as a data network as primary use, voice remains secondary.

All carriers are enhancing their networks over time, and the competition that FN has promoted is causing all the big cell carriers to up their offerings to public safety. They also all have roaming agreements that all vary in performance as you hit towers that do not belong to the carrier.

Last week in Miami, in a hotel right next to a band 14 equipped tower I was getting amazing network performance as measured by the FCC speed test app. I saw repeated results of Over 100 MBs download with little to no jitter or latency. However at the opposite corner of that same hotel where I was not hitting that tower, speeds dropped dramatically to about a third of that number.

Flying home while at SeaTac airport, my test measurement was in between those two results, As measured from the N satellite terminal.

Back at my home office where I can only hit a band 12 ATT tower, FN network speeds I experience are only under 5MBs download.

Going inside any building will degrade any cell signal, especially if there is a lot of concrete, steel and rebar in the building construction, or the coated high energy efficiency glass on the outside of the building between you and the cell tower. Some larger buildings may install an in building cell repeater for a particular carrier, but most do not have that yet.

Since the quality of your voice signal is riding on the overall network your individual performance will vary depending on your device and your location for ANY cell carrier including ATT/FN. FN SIM card does allow your device to produce a slightly stronger signal to the tower (something like 1.25 watts radiated output, compared to the normal 1 watt for non FN SIM card users) but for any gain in sustained tower connection that slightly increased output also draws down your battery quicker.

There is no perfect cell network, if you are eligible for FN give it a try and see if you get a better result.

Coverage is expanding over time as more towers are built, but that is true for more then just this carrier.
Bruce | | Winner of the 2017 Bogleheads Contest | | "Simplicity is the master key to financial success."

Post Reply