Verizon Takes On AT&T's FirstNet on 4G

Verizon said Wednesday that it will invest in its 4G network to allow first responders priority access nationwide on LTE, in an apparent bid to take on the FirstNet nationwide LTE public safety that AT&T intends to start rolling out by the end of this year.

To this end, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) says that it will build a private core network dedicated to public safety. "The network core manages and directs all command functions like network access and call routing," the operator says in a statement. This will allow first responders "priority access" to the operator's 2.4 million square miles of LTE network at "no extra charge."

Further, Verizon says it will invest in "new mission-critical 4G LTE voice communications" to complement existing services, such as "push to talk." We've asked Verizon if they can give any further details on coming updates.

The operator also says that it will make Band 14 devices available and ensure "full interoperability" with any Band 14 radio access networks (RANs) deployed by FirstNet. Band 14 is the 700MHz LTE band allocated for the public safety network.

Most notably, Verizon is stressing that states won't have to opt-in or pay anything towards Verizon's public safety network developments: "Verizon's public safety network solution does not require that states opt-out of FirstNet, does not require access to any federal funding provided to FirstNet, and does not require any financial commitment from states to support network deployment," the operator says.

Thirteen out of 50 states have so far opted into FirstNet, the latest being Kansas. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) gets a $6.5 billion "co-pay" from the Feds to deploy this network nationwide. AT&T is expecting to start rolling out the network by December but can start as soon as it gets state approval to deploy. (See AT&T Has FirstNet Public Safety Deal in the Bag – Sources and AT&T Adds 2.8M Subs Across US & Mexico, Various Connected Devices in Q2.)

On Wednesday afternoon, AT&T sent Light Reading a statement on FirstNet, which we've included below:

What we're offering to public safety through our private-public partnership will exceed anything they’ve previously been offered in the marketplace. FirstNet is bringing public safety a superior network and ecosystem with specialized features, including increased coverage and capacity along with priority and preemption, so first responder subscribers can be confident that the network will be there when and where they need it -- 24/7/365, like their mission.

Light Reading has asked Verizon if the public safety network will add to its capital expenditure bill for the year. Verizon is currently expecting total spending of between $16.8 billion to $17.5 billion for the year.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 8/16/2017 | 5:48:41 PM
Re: Interesting! AT&T just sent me a statement on FirstNet, I've updated the story, should be up very very soon. I asked them a couple of additional questions too, I'll update if needs be.
KBode 8/16/2017 | 5:43:20 PM
Re: Interesting! If this could have been tackled by existing technologies and networks, you have to wonder why AT&T needed the $6.5 billion contract? Interesting move by Verizon...wonder if competition by Verizon and Rivada Mercury will put much of a dent in this whole thing? Knowing AT&T pretty intimately, I can't help but wonder if this entire effort stumbles in and out of boondoggle territory over the next few years. 
DanJones 8/16/2017 | 5:27:42 PM
Interesting! Remember the article by Bill Stephens in the Atlantic back last year?

Link: http://www.lightreading.com/mobile/spectrum/firstnet-a-billion-dollar-boondoggle/a/d-id/725678

Where he said FirstNet could be covered by existing technology? This seems to be Verizon's take on that.

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