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Verizon commits to building dedicated public-safety LTE core network in 2018

DENVER—Verizon will build a dedicated public-safety LTEcore network next year that will be designed to provide public-safety customers with a viable option to the FirstNet nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) being developed by AT&T, a Verizon executive said today.

“Verizon is going to build and operate a private network core dedicated to our public-safety customers that will operate separately from our commercial core and provide our public-safety customers with access to our extensive 4G LTE nationwide network, which covers more than 2.4 million square miles,” Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions—Public Sector, said today during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“We believe our customers deserve a choice and that competition drives innovation and—ultimately—best price. Bottom line, we want to keep our customers, and we want them to have the best-in-class services that technology can provide.”

FirstNet’s initial offering provides public-safety users with priority access immediately—and preemptive access by the end of the year—on AT&T’s commercial network, which operates on myriad spectrum bands. AT&T’s dedicated public-safety LTE core is scheduled to be operational by March 2018.

Verizon will offer similar capabilities across its vast commercial network, Maiorana said.

“Priority access is available now, and we will include preemption by end of year,” he said. “We will include both priority and preemption at no additional charge to ensure that our [public-safety] customers have the connectivity they need when it matters most.”

Maiorana said Verizon will complete its public-safety LTE core in 2018 but declined to provide a more specific time period for the deployment. While there are details that still need to be finalized, Maiorana said existing Verizon public-safety customers logistically will experience “a very transparent transition” from current commercial service to the new public-safety core.

“It’s a dedicated public-safety core network that we have designed that will segregate traffic and allow for quality of service, a higher degree of security and get to our customers the capabilities—such as priority and preemption—segregated from our commercial core and give our customers access to this extensive Verizon network that we’ve built,” Maiorana said.

FirstNet and AT&T officials have noted that a FirstNet subscription will include a robust application store for public safety, extensive cybersecurity, and dedicated technical support for public safety that will be available to users at all times. Maiorana provided the following comments about Verizon’s public-safety offering:

  • Application store: “We will ensure that our customers have access to the applications they need to give them the services they need to do their jobs using Verizon.”

  • Cybersecurity: “We believe the [dedicated public-safety] core provides inherent benefits, complemented by what we already do from a commercial-network perspective. We understand how important cyber is. We’ve got additional software-defined perimeter services that can defend against cyberattacks that we are already positioning in the marketplace. We understand that this is a critical aspect, and we plan on making sure our customers completely understand how we can help them here.

  • ”Technical support: “We’ve had dedicated support for this customer base for decades, including 24-by-7 technical support, centralized network support, as well local support in each market. We’ve got people that have direct interaction at the federal, state, county and local levels. This is what we’ve done we done for decades, with dedicated people who only serve government and public safety.”

Maiorana said Verizon wants its new public-safety broadband service to provide choice to first-responder agencies.

“We see it as a complement to what FirstNet is doing,” he said.” It doesn’t require a state to opt out of FirstNet; it doesn’t require a use of any federal funds; and it doesn’t require states to make their own investments in network.”

Many in the public-safety industry have indicated that they would like to see a competitive alternative to FirstNet for mission-critical broadband. FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher today that “competition is always great” and that basic interoperability between FirstNet and other LTE networks should not be a problem, but he also emphasized that FirstNet is designed to be different from commercial offerings.

“If you are not on a FirstNet subscription, you will not have the same capabilities as the public-safety users on FirstNet—we need to be clear about that,” Bratcher said during the “FirstNet Town Hall” session at APCO 2017.

Maiorana said that Verizon would be open to the idea of developing interoperability between Verizon’s dedicated public-safety core and FirstNet’s dedicated public-safety core operated by AT&T.

Early in the week, Maiorana said that only “very limited conversations” about interoperability had occurred between FirstNet officials and Verizon. When asked whether Verizon representatives had spoken more with FirstNet about interoperability, Maiorana declined to comment but said, “We see a meaningful opportunity to work with FirstNet to accelerate their mission to serve public safety nationwide.”

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