First-responder subscribers to Verizon will have their traffic managed through a dedicated public-safety LTE core that will become operational this week, the telecom carrier announced today.

“As we committed to last year, we have built a public-safety network core dedicated to public-safety communications,” Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions—Public Sector, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “This public-safety core will operate separately from our Verizon commercial core and provide public safety with access to our extensive nationwide network covering 2.57 million square miles, which is 400,000 square miles more than the next competitor.”

Last year, Verizon officials said the telecom carrier would implement a dedicated public-safety LTE core—a component that is at the heart of the deployment plans for the FirstNet system being built by AT&T—during the first quarter of this year. FirstNet’s contract with AT&T calls for the dedicated FirstNet core to be completed by the end of this month, and FirstNet and AT&T both announced today that the timeline has been met.

Verizon’s public-safety LTE core will go live on Thursday, and customers will begin being migrated to the new core in April, Maiorana said.

Launching the public-safety core enables a host of services to Verizon first-responder subscribers, including traffic segmentation, priority and preemption, and improved end-to-end security with enhanced service-management control, Maiorana said.

“The core physically separates data traffic from our public-safety users from commercial users across our network, and it runs on dedicated resources, leveraging leading-edge, advanced networking technology, including software-defined networking and network function virtualization, to enhance security, flexibility and reliability.

 “We believe that that this [new Verizon public-safety core] is adding more features and functionality geared toward this very important segment on top of a very good network that will only continue to get better. We’re going to work aggressively to share this news with our customers and work with them to get them into the program.”

In addition to making the new public-safety core operational, Verizon is enhancing its wireless priority service to include mobile-broadband priority. Verizon previously announced that it has made preemption and priority functionality for public safety available across its network, but these capabilities will be enabled only after working with subscriber agencies—a process that designed to be straightforward, Maiorana said.

 “We’re going to handhold our customers, because this is going to be enabled on a customer-by-customer basis to make sure that we’re getting the right devices, the right user groups,” he said.

“Our field team—which are serving our customers in every county in America practically—will work hand-in-hand with their customers to get them enabled into this new service. There is a provisioning process that we need the customers to partner with us on. It’s low-level of effort [needed from public-safety customers], but we’re not going to do this in the dark without our customers being fully engaged and aware.”

Once enabled, priority and preemption capabilities are automatic and will follow a user throughout the Verizon network, and the functionality is available at no additional cost to qualifying customers, Maiorana said.

“Once we work with each account holder—the specific customer of record—and we enable the feature, the actual end user will not have to do anything,” he said.