Verizon is touting a new statewide public safety wireless deal with the state of Massachusetts, which authorizes the operator to offer services to public safety through the state’s public safety-grade wireless agreement.
Verizon claimed that this is the first state and local agency multi-vendor procurement in the U.S. for public safety-grade wireless data services. For Verizon, those services include service via its private network core to handle first responders’ traffic, as well as priority and preemption capabilities.
Verizon said that it will provide “seamless” communications across wireless carriers, and that public safety users responding to major incidents “will be able to talk, text, share multimedia and communicate in real-time, regardless of their selected public safety grade wireless carrier, plan or device.” The carrier noted that it is “committed to supporting interoperability and open technology standards with other wireless providers who provide public safety products and solutions.”
Interoperability — and just how deeply that interoperability goes, as far as applications and services — has been a hotly debated subject when it comes to Verizon, which dominates the public safety cellular space, and its interactions with market newcomer FirstNet, whose network is being built out, operated and managed as part of AT&T. FirstNet also has a private core for handling traffic specifically for first responder customers and enabling priority and preemption services, as does U.S. Cellular. RCR Wireless News has reached out to Verizon for additional details on interoperability support in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts, like all of the U.S. states and territories, opted in to AT&T’s build-out of the FirstNet network, but that does not obligate any agency to become FirstNet customers.
In related news, in AT&T’s quarterly results reported this week, carrier executives said that the FirstNet build-out continues to drive its network strategy and improvements and will be about 70% complete by the end of the year.
“The first responder community is a rather large market, and it’s a market where we come into it with very small share,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on the company’s quarterly call. “Our opportunity to grow share as we build out this First Responder Network is quite significant, and you’re starting to see that play itself out. But that just as importantly, as we build out the FirstNet network, we’re moving into markets where we have had a pretty thin presence in the past. These are rural communities. And as we move into these communities, we are standing up brand new distribution in many communities.”
CFO John Stephens said that while the direct first responder community in the U.S. has about 3 million people, the secondary responders such as utilities, hospitals and others who support disaster response efforts bring in another 11 million potential subscribers, who may have multiple devices; plus family members of responders who subscribe to FirstNet are also being offered plans from AT&T.
In late June, AT&T-FirstNet announced that the city of San Jose, California was the first in the country to equip all of its public safety and emergency response personnel with FirstNet devices, and departments subscribing to FirstNet included not only police, fire and emergency management, but the transportation, public works, and parks and recreation departments as well as the San Jose International Airport. AT&T has an existing public-private partnership with AT&T that includes smart lighting and funding from the carrier to help the city bridge the digital divide, as well as digital infrastructure nodes to support first responders. AT&T said it has already deployed Band 14 spectrum in San Jose.