Verizon touts New York State contract as it battles AT&T for public safety customers

In yet another indication that Verizon isn’t ceding the public safety market to AT&T, the company announced that the State of New York Office of General Services (OGS) has authorized Verizon as one of multiple contractors to offer services to state agencies and public safety entities through a newly awarded telecom connectivity services contract.

Verizon said that through the contract, state and local governments can take advantage of Verizon’s “robust communication and network solutions,” including high speed data networking solutions and Verizon’s Response Solutions for public safety agencies.

That’s in contrast to what AT&T offers. AT&T won the nation’s 25-year FirstNet contract to provide the first LTE core network dedicated to public safety, and it operates on Band 14. That network and the contract leading up to it were years in the making, and AT&T received “beachfront” property spectrum in the form of the 700 MHz band by winning the deal through a competitive RFP process.   

But Verizon traditionally has served the lion’s share of the public safety market, and even though AT&T would seem to be the obvious provider for that segment, the decision boils down to each local entity, whether it be police, fire or EMS. That’s where Verizon is banking it will continue to win.

Verizon’s always-on priority and preemption services are available today, and accessible using a basic phone, smartphone or data-only device, the company said, crowing that it covers more than 98% of Americans with a “more than 450,000 square mile coverage advantage over the nearest competitor.”

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Even though the intent behind FirstNet was to provide one network where first responders could communicate with one another regardless of geography or jurisdiction, Verizon doesn’t believe every first responder needs to be on the same network nationwide. It depends on what works best for them in a given geography, according to Nick Nilan, director of Product Development, Public Sector, at Verizon.

What’s important is that the networks work together, Nilan told FierceWireless last month. When the plan for FirstNet was drafted after September 11, 2001, there was a lack of interoperability between networks. “Now, in 2020, we have the advantage of interoperable standards built into our cellular networks,” he said.

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AT&T isn’t showing signs of slowing down either. During its first-quarter earnings conference call, AT&T said it now serves more than 10,000 first responder agencies and more than 1 million connections with FirstNet, according to a SeekingAlpha transcript. COO John Stankey said AT&T expects those numbers will grow as its FirstNet deployment reaches 80% in new devices and capabilities come to market in the coming months.

Wells Fargo Securities analysts who attended Verizon’s investor meetings on Thursday said that during a breakout session with the enterprise team, “they were very clear that VZ continues to ‘own and grow’ share in the public safety sector (even with the push by AT&T in FirstNet).” Driving this is coverage and reliability. “As evidenced by the 2020 Super Bowl ad, we do not believe this is going to be a fight which VZ gives up lightly.  We continue to believe this is a trend to watch – especially as AT&T continues to expand its FirstNet coverage,” wrote senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche in a note for investors.