Verizon continues to seek AT&T and FirstNet agreement on higher levels of interoperability to support first-responder communications, although no such discussion have occurred to date, according to Verizon officials.

Contrary to some industry speculation, basic interoperability exists between Verizon and the FirstNet system being deployed by AT&T, in terms of the ability to transmit public-safety traffic back and forth, Nick Nilan, Verizon’s director of public-sector strategy. However, Verizon wants more comprehensive interoperability between the networks, particularly in the areas of application interoperability, mutual recognition of priority-and-preemption services and the ability to support mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT) communications between the networks, he said.

“Our message is clear: there is interoperability between Verizon customers and AT&T customers, and Verizon customers and FirstNet customers, today for voice, text, video and e-mail—all of the standard data applications that are in use by consumers, public safety can use those, too,” Nilan said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We want to make sure that there’s not confusion in the market that you won’t be able to call a first responder on another network.

“What we’re asking for from AT&T and FirstNet—and we continue to ask them to come to the table, to at least have these conversations—are real-time data sharing across applications. No public-safety agency should have to choose a network based on where an application sits or what applications they’ll have access to.”

Mike Maiorana, Verizon’s senior vice president for the public sector, echoed this sentiment during a presentation he made during the APCO 2018 show conducted last week in Las Vegas.

“Since the AT&T is a commercial network run on 3GPP standards and our network is a commercial network run on 3GPP standards, we believe there is a pathway to true interoperability to enable Verizon customers to effectively communicate to AT&T customers,” Maiorana said during the presentation.

Maiorana highlighted the importance of the priority and preemption status of users from the other network, “so an AT&T with a certain level of priority is recognized by the Verizon network with that same level of priority, and vice-versa.

“We believe that this is the future. We’re advocating for interoperability. We’re not advocating for a piece of the FirstNet contract. We’re not advocating to earn a spot there. We’re advocating to maintain our business in the public-safety space to deliver the best network with the best technology and the best applications and allow our customers to decide which network in their local market would serve them best.”

Both Maiorana and Nilan acknowledged that no such interoperability discussions between Verizon, AT&T and FirstNet have occurred thus far.

Verizon traditionally has been the market leader in providing wireless broadband services to public-safety agencies, garnering about 70% of the market, according to some estimates. Despite the presence of FirstNet in the marketplace, Verizon’s $4.6-billion public-sector business continues to grow, Maiorana said.

“We don’t report on numbers at the segment level, but the amount of new business that we have secured in the past year exponentially outweighs the number of customers that have switched to AT&T … in the public-sector segment overall,” Maiorana said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications conducted during the APCO 2018 show.