Verizon Fires Back at AT&T Criticism of Public Safety Offering

LAS VEGAS — Verizon Communications, Inc., fired back today at AT&T, Inc.’s suggestion that Verizon was “misleading public safety” in its description of Verizon’s public safety broadband offering. Verizon also suggested that AT&T is being “inconsistent” because it criticizes Verizon’s virtual public safety core while touting the benefits of virtual network functions elsewhere.

During an interview with TR Daily this morning at the APCO 2018 show here, Mike Maiorana, senior vice president–public sector for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, responded to comments that an AT&T executive made in an interview with TR Daily earlier this week.

During the earlier interview, Chris Sambar, SVP-FirstNet for AT&T, which is the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, suggested that there are “inconsistencies” concerning how Verizon sells its public safety offering, for which it has built a virtual public safety core (TR Daily, Aug. 7).

“Verizon is purposely obfuscating the difference between a virtual and a dedicated core,” he said. He said that while AT&T offers “always-on preemption,” public safety entities have told AT&T that Verizon has said its preemption involves wireless priority service (WPS), which is a voice offering, and at times has said preemption is offered today while other times has said it would be offered later this year.

“I don’t understand why they are misleading public safety,” Mr. Sambar added. “We’re being very clear about what we’re offering.”

“I think it’s disappointing that AT&T needs to disparage Verizon’s messaging in the marketplace and question our integrity in how we serve our customers,” Mr. Maiorana said today. “This is a segment that builds trust and buys services based on long-standing performance. It’s not a customer segment that buys on promises of the future or marketing rhetoric. So we have a long-standing history at Verizon of leading in this customer segment.”

Verizon says that it “provides always-on priority and preemption services to first responders, and that is currently available today.”

Mr. Maiorana added that AT&T has been “inconsistent in their messaging.”

He cited an interview that two AT&T public sector executives did on Federal News Radio in Washington in which they touted the benefits of software-defined networking and virtual network functions over a hardware-based approach and mentioned the security benefits.

In response to Mr. Maiorana’s comments, an AT&T spokesperson told TR Daily, “Interesting to see Verizon suddenly concern themselves with consistency. We have criticized Verizon for misleading public safety into thinking a virtual slice off of Verizon’s commercial core is no different than FirstNet’s dedicated, physically separate network core. Public safety made it clear they wanted a physically separate, purpose-built core dedicated to them, which is exactly what FirstNet is delivering. This helps create a highly secure network, physically separating public safety’s traffic from commercial traffic. We are applying our software-based approach on top of the physically separate architecture.”

AT&T and FirstNet frequently criticize, at least implicitly, Verizon’s offering because it employs a virtual public safety core and not a physical core, which AT&T built at a cost of about $500 million.

Verizon often does not respond to such criticism.

“We are interested in having in-depth, trusted discussions with our customers to earn their business. We’re not interested in getting into [an] external marketing and communications war with AT&T or FirstNet,” Mr. Maiorana said.

But he added, “We’re supportive of the vision of FirstNet. We just believe we can help enable that vision a lot faster, and I think we’re making some progress. Certainly our customers are voting with their purchase orders that way.”

He said that since FirstNet awarded a 25-year contract to AT&T last year (TR Daily, March 20, 2017), AT&T’s public safety business has increased. But he didn’t provide any details.

“We don’t publicize customer-segment specific results,” he said. “I’ll say that we are very pleased with our results to date, and it reconfirms our customers’ trust in our business.”

The executive also said that Verizon plans to roll out a suite of public safety mobile apps by the end of this year, saying Verizon is vetting the apps and partners are helping the company.

Mr. Maiorana was also asked about a recent filing at the FCC in which the state of Colorado asked the FCC to clarify guidelines and requirements concerning interoperability and roaming between the nationwide public safety broadband network and wireless carriers (TR Daily, July 9). Colorado later withdrew the request (TR Daily, July 16).

Verizon says that FirstNet and AT&T should permit core-to-core interoperability between AT&T and Verizon, which FirstNet and AT&T oppose.

“We continue to work with our customers at the state and local level to promote the benefits of interoperability, and we’re excited that states like Colorado and others are taking notice,” Mr. Maiorana said.

He was asked about Verizon’s support for legislation that would rescind a statutory requirement that the T-band, which is used by public safety entities in 11 major cities, be reallocated for commercial use and auctioned (TR Daily, April 27).

“We certainly are not in a position to tell public safety when they have to migrate off their land mobile radios. That’s their decision, and we’ve always supported what … we believe is best for public safety,” he said. He also said that Verizon has an “ample portfolio” of other spectrum for 4G and 5G services. —Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily