Verizon said yesterday that it will introduce an advanced first responder mobile network and technology to be known as Frontline on Sunday during “pro basketball’s big game.” Although the game was not mentioned by name, the company undoubtedly was referring to the NBA All Stars game.
The news is the latest in an ongoing string of first responder offerings that Verizon has made in competition with FirstNet, the dedicated first responder mobile network operated by AT&T.
According to a press release, Frontline was developed over nearly three decades of partnership with public safety to meet public safety’s unique needs. However, the capabilities touted — such as prioritization and preemption — are virtually identical to what Verizon highlighted when it launched a public safety core network in 2018.
When Telecompetitor asked a Verizon spokesperson how the Frontline network differs from the first responder core network announced in 2018, the response seemed to suggest that the move was primarily a new positioning and branding of the offering.
“All of our network and technology offerings for first responders will now fall within Verizon Frontline,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Telecompetitor. “It includes everything from 4G LTE and Verizon 5G network connectivity, priority and preemption, interoperability (and our commitment to it) and more. It’s also a way for us to communicate what sets us apart, clarify that there’s a difference and a choice in the market, and that our near 30-year history in public safety informed the creation and launch of Verizon Frontline as the best way for us [to] help public safety customers identify the Verizon products/services that were built from the ground-up for them. You’ll see Verizon Frontline everywhere from here on out — it’s our way of being synonymous with advanced technology and networks for first responders.”
The main focus of yesterday’s release was on promotional efforts supporting Frontline, such as working with basketball stars to deliver meals to frontline workers and hosting gaming livestream events in which first responders and some of their favorite pro basketball stars will participate.
Before AT&T won a contract with the quasi-governmental FirstNet Authority in 2017, Verizon had the lion’s share of the first responder market, but AT&T likely has made inroads since then. AT&T had to commit to a $40 billion investment to win the FirstNet contract, which included dedicated spectrum for the mobile first responder network – something Verizon doesn’t have. FirstNet also paid for some of the FirstNet network construction costs.
When adequate capacity is available on the FirstNet radio access network for first responders, AT&T is also able to use that network for commercial traffic. FirstNet is supported by a dedicated core network which, like Frontline, provides pre-emption and prioritization for first responders.
FirstNet launched as an LTE network but last year the FirstNet Authority voted to provide $200 million toward the initial cost of upgrading the network to 5G.
T-Mobile also has attempted to disrupt the first responder market. The company said that if its merger with Sprint was completed, which indeed has happened, the merged company would make 5G service available to first responders at no charge.