DENVER—Amid the considerable attention surrounding FirstNet and AT&T’s effort to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), Verizon is working ensure that first-responders agencies know that the telecom giant still plans to serve them, according to an executive with the telecom giant.

Verizon has “pretty good market share” in the public-safety sector, and “in certain parts of the county, it’s dominant,” according to Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions—Public Sector. Verizon hopes to maintain and expand that role in the future, even with the development of FirstNet on the AT&T network, he said.

“We’re excited to be here at APCO as one of the main sponsors, have the opportunity to talk with our customers and ensure that they understand our commitment to this segment and why we believe that we are very viable option for the future,” Maiorana said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.  

“We’ve got great relationships down at the local, county and state levels with these [public-safety] customers. We want to make sure that they know that we’re here to stay. We’re going to continue to evolve to deliver them network, support and products that they need to do their job … I’m going to tell [public-safety officials at APCO] that, ‘We’re here, we’re going to continue to commit to give you the service that you’ve depended on for years, and don’t forget about us.’”

Verizon spokesman John O’Malley echoed this sentiment.

“We intend to be very competitive with whatever AT&T puts out there in its final [FirstNet] offering,” O’Malley said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We haven’t seen a lot of the details regarding what they plan to offer and regarding pricing, but we can assure our customers and anybody else that we intend to be competitively priced—if not better priced—to whatever AT&T has in its final offer.

“We intend to continue to play in this business. We are the market-share leader. We’ve been doing this for decades, and we have no intentions to walk away.”

Verizon’s primary asset to public safety is a nationwide wireless network that covers more than 2.4 million square miles in the U.S. and “year in, year out, is rated the best,” Maiorana said.

Verizon is offering its Private Network Traffic Management (PNTM) service—designed to provide quality-of-service prioritization to subscribers—at no cost to public-safety users, Maiorana said. In addition, Verizon is the first carrier to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to successfully trial Wireless Priority Service (WPS) using voice over LTE (VoLTE) that is simpler to use than existing WPS, he said.

“For WPS VoLTE, which is priority on the LTE radio access network, you don’t need to dial ‘*272’—the priority is between the UE [device] and the eNodeB [LTE base station],” Maiorana said. “We’re getting great performance.”

One key component of the FirstNet/AT&T proposal is that AT&T has promised FirstNet public-safety subscribers “ruthless preemption” across its entire existing network, as well as the extension of the system across FirstNet’s 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum in the future. When asked whether Verizon is willing to provide preemptive access to public safety, Maiorana said the concept is under consideration.

“We’re studying that [preemption], and we’re looking at when and where that might be needed. It may be needed on the worst of the worst days, where there’s a complete, horrific disaster,” he said. “But we believe that we’ve got the coverage and capacity to be able to leverage the wireless priority services that are available to disaster response, public safety and law-enforcement folks.”

Verizon is willing to provide public-safety users with a broadband alternative to the FirstNet system, but Maiorana acknowledged that there is uncertainty surrounding how a Verizon public-safety customer would interoperate with a public-safety colleague subscribing to AT&T. Communicating between the two networks should not be a problem, but there are questions how quality-of-service and cybersecurity levels for public-safety users would be maintained when service is provided on different networks utilizing different LTE cores, he said.