Verizon Will Build Network for First Responders to Compete With AT&T’s FirstNet

Verizon says it will invest in new mission-critical 4G LTE voice communications to complement existing services, such as push to talk.

Verizon Will Build Network for First Responders to Compete With AT&T’s FirstNet

NEW YORK CITY — Verizon (NYSE: VZ) will build a dedicated network core for first responders, advancing its efforts in the public safety sector and setting the stage to compete with First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) contractor AT&T.

Verizon announced last week it will build and operate its own private network core for public safety communications, and will offer priority access and preemption to first responders for free whenever necessary. The carrier said it will invest in new “mission-critical 4G LTE voice communications” that will complement existing offerings like Push-to-Talk Plus.

Verizon indicated the move comes at the behest of public safety agencies.

“We’re making the investments necessary to give public safety access to the best possible network coverage, reliability, and capability, when and where they need it,” Verizon’s Public Sector SVP Michael Maiorana commented. “Our public safety network will provide a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for public safety, and we’ll continue working to offer first responders the network reliability and access to innovative services they need to keep our communities safe.”

Verizon stressed it considers the network core solution to be a complement to FirstNet rather than an alternative, noting that it will simply give first responders additional choice. Use of the carrier’s network solution won’t require states to opt-out of AT&T’s FirstNet build, and Verizon said it’s planning to fund the project itself.

Still, the move appears to be setting up a fight between Verizon and AT&T for public safety users since Verizon indicated it will offer multi-band devices that provide Band 14 access and enable full interoperability with Band 14 radio access networks deployed by FirstNet.

“We’ve proposed a network solution we believe will achieve the mission of FirstNet, as well as maintain the competitive nature of the communications marketplace,” Michael Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Public Sector, wrote in an article posted to LinkedIn.

As Wireless Week reported last week, Verizon said in a recent filing with the FCC that it plans to “provide reliable and innovative public safety communications services to state and local governments irrespective of whether states choose to opt out of the FirstNet network.” And in recent months, the carrier has launched a campaign highlighting its work with public safety officials across the country to draw in customers.

In July, Verizon said it was lending communications support to more than 8,000 firefighters and first responders battling fires in several western U.S. states. In particular, Verizon noted its use of satellite communications technology in remote areas of California, Cell-on-Wheels deployments in Utah, and network repeaters in Arizona.

In March, FirstNet awarded AT&T the $6.5 billion, 25-year contract to build the network and use the bandwidth for public safety and commercial applications.

AT&T will receive the $6.5 billion from FirstNet under the contract, but the company has said it will cost more to build the network and it intends to invest about $40 billion of its own money in the network over the life of the contract. AT&T said it hopes to turn a profit by leveraging underutilized portions of the spectrum for commercial services.

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