FirstNet had barely flipped the switch on its broadband network core when it began to face competition. Verizon turned on its public safety core on March 27, an LTE network with expanded products and services that is designed to compete with AT&T’s FirstNet broadband network core, which also went online at the end of last month.
Public safety agencies will receive preemption and mobile broadband priority services on the Verizon private core at no extra charge, as well as traffic segmentation, improved security, and enhanced service management and control.
The public safety core is connected to Verizon’s Radio Access Network (RAN), which has spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz Cellular, 1.9 GHz PCS, and 1.7/2.1 GHz AWS bands. The data traffic of public safety mobile users is recognized and separated from commercial users and given priority access at the tower and through the network.
Verizon is positioning itself as the preeminent public safety communications provider, and Michael Maiorana, senior vice president, public sector for Verizon, left no doubt that it intends to take on FirstNet, noting that Verizon’s 2.5 million square miles of LTE coverage is 400,000 square miles more than AT&T.
“This isn’t a new marketplace for us – this is what we do. We continue to make the investments necessary to give public safety access to the best possible network coverage, reliability and capability, whenever they need it,” Maiorana said. “Our public safety network will provide a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for public safety. A vigorously competitive marketplace where first responders have access to a choice [in LTE broadband networks] and competitively priced offerings is the best path forward.”
AT&T Powers Forward With FirstNet
The launch of the network core came one year into the FirstNet public-private partnership and it is moving forward on schedule, according to said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T – FirstNet.
“But bringing the FirstNet network core to life is one of the most exciting milestones yet,” he said. “While we’ve already given first responders access to the early benefits of FirstNet, the launch of the FirstNet evolved packet core is a major breakthrough for public safety. Built on physically separate hardware, it finally gives first responders their own separate, nationwide broadband network,” which is certified by the First Responder Network Authority.
The core creates and controls how public safety officials use FirstNet. It processes and carries public safety’s information and provides capabilities, like First Priority, which helps law enforcement, EMS and fire respond to unfolding incidents around them. Overall, it forms the basis for the unified, interoperable and nationwide communications system that is FirstNet.
FirstNet’s raison detre is to bring interoperability to all public safety agencies. One of the questions that came up in lieu of the Verizon public safety core is whether it will allow first responders on Verizon’s network to communicate with users of FirstNet. In statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications, Sambar said there would be no problems with interoperability between Verizon and FirstNet.
“Verizon knows full well that its customers will be able to communicate with FirstNet customers, and vice versa, because both networks interconnect per industry standards,” Sambar said. “The truth is AT&T-FirstNet and Verizon spoke to each other on this exact topic about six months ago. There is nothing else to discuss, as far as we’re concerned.”