Brittingham reiterated this sentiment about Band 14 when providing an explanation why Verizon did not submit a bid for the nationwide FirstNet contract.

“Why we didn’t bid was pretty simple,” he said. “The way the RFP was structured, it was essentially a spectrum deal, where the winning bidder would be required to build the network and—in exchange—would get the ability to hopefully monetize the 20 MHz of spectrum.

“That spectrum has never been of strong interest to Verizon, from the very time we joined with public safety to push for reallocation of the D Block and supported the FirstNet legislation. It was never about the spectrum. It was always about serving public safety and providing the best service we could.

“It was never about getting access to the spectrum and commercializing it. That’s not to say that we don’t understand why FirstNet chose to take the route that it did, and that’s fine. But we did not have an interest in doing that. As a result, we really couldn’t expect to compete in an RFP that was predicated on that.”

When asked whether Verizon would like to have nationwide access to the Band 14 spectrum—and the $6.5 billion in funding provided to the nationwide FirstNet contractor—Brittingham said the costs associated with deploying over airwaves in a new band for a carrier often are underestimated by observers.

“I think a lot of people don’t really understand what it means to pursue a particular piece of spectrum, integrate it into your network, invest in devices using that spectrum, etc.,” Brittingham said. “We have a very strong spectrum position at Verizon, and certainly we may need additional spectrum in the future, but our needs in the future are likely going to be driven by 5G needs and the need for capacity in urban areas, where lower-band spectrum frankly doesn’t have the same value.

“I don’t want to make it sound like spectrum isn’t a good thing, but this particularly band didn’t meet our needs and the needs of the network … Suffice it to say that we did a very significant evaluation of the spectrum and whether we could use it, because obviously we would have loved to come in with an effective bid that would have used it to do what we were planning to do already, but it just didn’t make any sense for us.”

A key aspect of Verizon’s public-safety strategy is that the carrier has promised to provide public-safety customers with preemptive access across its network—something Brittingham stated the carrier would not do during a meeting in 2010 with key government officials. Many public-safety representatives openly have questioned whether FirstNet legislation would have passed without this no-preemption assertion, which was echoed by AT&T leadership.

Now, Verizon plans to give public-safety customers preemptive access to its network by the end of the year, just as AT&T plans to do for public-safety FirstNet subscribers.

Clearly, circumstances have changed, Brittingham said.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that LTE has evolved in a way—and has been incorporated in our network in a way—that allows us to offer preemption to public safety without impacting our other customers in any significant way,” Brittingham said. “So, we think we can follow through with that commitment without any problem.

“Secondly—and maybe more importantly—it’s about competition. AT&T stepped up through the RFP and committed to do preemption for FirstNet. Obviously, we need to compete with AT&T—as we always have—and we realized that we need to step up and do the same thing.”