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AT&T Launches an Emergency Blimp

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AT&T Launches an Emergency Blimp

In the aftermath of natural disaster or mass terror, emergency personnel need reliable phone and internet service. Unfortunately, such incidents often bring critical damage to communication networks. Where cable or fiber networks are disrupted, how can emergency personnel be sure of dependable, fast contact with each other? Maybe a blimp is what they need.

AT&T says it has the solution. To this end, the telecom has launched a blimp, a 55-foot aerostat called FirstNet One. AT&T says the airship will provide better coverage than FirstNet’s other assets can.

What the Blimp Will Do

FirstNet One hovers at 1000 feet, and can remain aloft for two weeks before needing replenishment of its helium. It can withstand winds of seventy miles per hour.

AT&T and FirstNet conducted the blimp’s first test flight in Tuskegee, Alabama. As of December 4, it has never been sent to the site of a disaster. AT&T says, though, that it could be essential for communications in case of wildfire, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other catastrophes.

What is FirstNet?

AT&T is launching its aerial communications system in partnership with FirstNet. FirstNet is an emergency broadband system authorized by the FCC, and is now the official public safety network for all fifty states. More than 10,000 medical, police, and fire services subscribe to it.

In March 2017, the First Responder Network Authority chose AT&T to build and run the system. FirstNet provides dedicated LTE coverage, and runs on AT&T’s existing LTE networks. For the system, AT&T devoted a band of spectrum licensed specifically for emergency services.

AT&T says it may upgrade FirstNet to 5G soon. It hasn’t specified a date.

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