Whether FirstNet® and Verizon® should support the secure interoperability option between customers of both, was a topic of debate at the International Wireless Communications Expo (ICWE) this year. This debate was held between consultants working with both AT&T® and Verizon®.
Towards building the public-safety network, the Dallas-based fastest internet provider has established a separate LTE core in order to manage FirstNet® customer traffic, giving priority to public-safety users in addition to preemption rights over the commercial traffic across the AT&T® network, comprising all its LTE spectrum bands. The wireless provider Verizon® has said that it will match FirstNet’s functionality, giving priority and preemption via a virtual LTE core on the company’s broadband network.
Users of Verizon® and FirstNet® have basic interoperability at a time when network capacity is no big issue, though Verizon® wants the public-safety system to recognize its subscribers’ priority as well as preemption while communicating with each FirstNet® user, as per The Digital Decision’s CEO, Robert LeGrande, who consults with the commercial wireless carrier.
This mutual recognition of both preemption rights and priority is different from “core-to-core interoperability” which some Verizon® customers first sought, and which was shown in a slide displayed as part of Robert LeGrande’s presentation, in the course of an ICEW session on choosing a broadband provider.
“I know that graphic is somewhat misleading, because it suggests that it’s a core-to-core connection. But it actually isn’t,” said Robert LeGrande. “All it is, is each carrier recognizing the priority protocols and respecting the priority protocols that are set up on individual networks.”
“If you’re FirstNet® AT&T®, and I send you a message—there still is interoperability at the carrier level … you can do that now. It’s the care of the messaging when it comes across, and [each carrier] recognizing that it’s coming from a first responder and, therefore, will get different treatment on [the other carrier’s] network. That ensures that public-safety communications have priority and preemption—no matter what network they’re on—during a time of crisis.”
“That’s not an unreasonable request, nor does it require core-to-core interoperability. Nobody’s looking to get access to FirstNet’s core in that model; it’s just passing the priority-and-preemption protocols back and forth.”
In the absence of such recognition of priority and preemption rights, it is likely first responders who subscribe to different service providers might just not be able to communicate with one another in crisis times – during heaviest network congestion and when prioritized access is required the most, he said.
“What I’m asking is to leverage these things—not to give [AT&T®] an advantage, not to give Verizon® an advantage. But, at the scene, make sure that we’re not withholding capabilities for communication when we’re at the scene. Build the best thing on the right, build the best thing on the left, but don’t compete at the scene.”