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Verizon's Public Safety Network On Schedule, Officials Say

A Verizon official said the company's new network for first responders, and additional communication features like pre-emption, are on schedule to debut later this year.

Verizon, which in August announced plans to build a private network dedicated to public safety and first responder communications — potentially targeting AT&T customers in the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) — is on track to debut that infrastructure later this year.

Nicholas Nilan, Verizon’s director of product development for the public sector, told Government Technology the network’s new public safety core is expected during the first half of 2018, along with pre-emption capabilities and others to follow.

First responders already on Verizon’s network gained priority status at no additional charge during the last six months.

Additional security services will be enabled through Verizon’s new public safety core, which, as it rolls out, will be linked to several of the telecommunications giant’s other ongoing initiatives, Nilan said.

The company, which serves more than 110 million customers, is in the process of building out its One Fiber fiber-optic network in cities like Boston and Sacramento, with offerings that have included free Wi-Fi and delivery of sensors and other smart devices. One Fiber also lays the groundwork for the company’s 5G rollout, which had trials in 11 cities in 2017 and will continue with an additional three to five cities this year.

Its Smart Cities and Communities solutions will also help support the public safety core. A recent example is Verizon’s partnership with ShotSpotter announced in January, utilizing the company’s Light Sensory Network, an Internet of Things platform on streetlights to make deployment of gunshot detection technology easier and more cost-effective.

The ultimate goal, Nilan said, is to continue to offer first responders Verizon’s known reliability — and a pervasiveness that it is always on.

“It’s about architecting our network in a way that priority services and pre-emption services aren’t even needed. We all know they will be in certain situations and we want to enable our customers for those. But in most cases, it just won’t be necessary because of the expansiveness of our network,” Nilan said.

Boosting the network’s reach and speed, he pointed out, can improve economic and business conditions within cities — potentially increasing their drawing power for residential and business users and blunting any impacts to municipal budgets.

The company’s reliability has long been a draw to first responders, Nilan said, and later this year, following a trial run at the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, first responders will also get the pre-emption capability. That’s also expected during the first half of 2018.

As the year wears on, first responders will be able to access a public safety-related applications ecosystem — the next step in further enabling applications now available for areas including dispatch, video surveillance and body cameras.

Also on the way are mission-critical push-to-talk capabilities, building on the initial launch last year of the push-to-talk land mobile radio (LMR) interoperability that enabled connections between an agency’s LMR and its push-to-talk systems.

Interoperability in and outside Verizon will continue to be key, Nilan said, noting that the company’s message has been, “Look, we’re going to build our network and all our capabilities based on open standards, and we would love for our carrier competitors to do the exact same.”

“What we’re seeing now is greater demand on the reliability of the network, and it’s nice to see that now, in the last year, public safety and public sector, state and local, isn’t that ‘other’ part of everyone else’s business, but it’s actually getting the attention it deserves from the technology community,” Nilan said.

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.