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Verizon to Build Public Safety Communications Network to Rival FirstNet, AT&T

The communications giant has proposed a network solution it believes will achieve the mission of FirstNet, as well as maintain the competitive nature of the communications marketplace.

On Aug. 16, Verizon announced that it plans to build and operate a private network dedicated to public safety communications, targeting the same customers AT&T gains under the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) contract awarded at the end of March — and which several states have already opted in to.

According to a press release, Verizon is committing to build a dedicated public safety core that will operate separately from its commercial core, and give first responders priority access to the company's 2.4-million-square-mile 4G LTE network.

Though the company urged the FCC in a July filing to tell states that FirstNet isn’t their only option for a wireless network for public safety workers, Verizon's current announcement states that its public safety network solution does not require that states opt out of FirstNet — nor does it require access to any federal funding provided to FirstNet or any financial commitment from states to support network deployment.

"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," wrote Michael Maiorana, senior vice president, Public Sector for Verizon on LinkedIn. "Competition and choice are important to public safety because they drive innovation and competitive pricing, and give first responders the flexibility to choose the communications solutions that best meet their needs and the needs of their communities."

Verizon says that it's fully funding the creation of this dedicated public safety network core — and will make available multi-band devices that will provide access to Band 14 spectrum and enable full interoperability with any Band 14 radio access networks (RANs) deployed by FirstNet.

"By building our own private network core dedicated to public safety users and providing them with enhanced priority services, including pre-emption, when they need it (at no charge), we can ensure our public safety customers have the opportunity to weigh all their options as they make their important communications network decisions," Maiorana wrote. "The security we build into our commercial networks, combined with the inherent security advantages of our private core dedicated to public safety, will help protect first responders’ communications."

The resulting multi-carrier environment, he continued, "would give first responders the ability to choose between the two largest national networks to achieve the best network reliability, greatest innovation and best pricing for their communications services."