Massachusetts has struck a first-of-its-kind multi-vendor deal with Verizon, authorizing one of the country’s major wireless carriers to provide services to public safety through the company’s private first responder network core that is competing with AT&T’s FirstNet network.
The deal, announced Wednesday, is the first multi-vendor procurement deal for state and local public safety agencies in the country. That means that both vendors — Verizon and AT&T, which is building the wireless data network known as FirstNet across all 56 U.S. states and territories — will be able to provide dedicated service to first responders in Massachusetts. The deal “supports the real underlying notion of true interoperability,” Maggie Hallbach, Verizon’s vice president of state, local and educational sales, told StateScoop.
The deal is estimated at $303 million and could run until June 2024, if Massachusetts opts to renew in 2022. Massachusetts sent out a “request for responses” last August, just over a year after Verizon announced its plan to build a private network core for first responders to compete with AT&T.
Verizon’s core has been active since March 2018. Though Massachusetts opted into FirstNet in 2017, that move did not mandate that municipal, county and state public safety agencies use AT&T as their wireless carrier.
“It just so happens that the services we proposed on this public safety contract are specifically those services that we’ve had out there for a bit now,” Hallbach said.
Those services include being able to place phone calls, send text messages and transmit other data on a core separate from the commercial core, Hallbach said, along with “priority and pre-emption,” features that ensure public safety users will always have preferential access to the network, when necessary. Users will be able to communicate regardless of their selected public-safety-grade wireless carrier, plan or device, which she said was a requirement of the bidding process.
“The ability for public safety users throughout Massachusetts to communicate seamlessly while responding to incidents is of the utmost importance,” Kerry Collins, the undersecretary for technology in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said in a press release. “Bringing real-time communications to our first responders enables us to better protect and serve.”