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AT&T may have been awarded the FirstNet build contract, but rival U.S. wireless carrier Verizon said it plans to continue offering public safety solutions to states regardless of their opt-in status.

In a recent ex parte filing with the FCC, Verizon reiterated “the company’s intention to provide reliable and innovative public safety communications services to state and local governments irrespective of whether states choose to opt out of the FirstNet network.”

The assertion marks the continuation of Verizon’s attempts not to be left out of the public safety market as a steady stream of state opt-ins to AT&T’s FirstNet build come rolling in.

Verizon in July asked the FCC to confirm states have the “same flexibility as FirstNet to select partners for deploying and operating” their public safety networks. That same month, Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon’s Public Sector business, issued a statement noting the carrier’s “decades-long commitment to the public safety market is as strong as ever.”

“We understand the needs of public safety, and we continue to support these important customers by building upon the years of trust we’ve established with our nation’s first responders,” Maiorana said. “We have a clear roadmap to the future with nationwide fiber investments, smart cities solution deployments, and our commitment to 5G technology -- all of which will benefit public safety and our communities. And we intend to offer services and solutions that will complement and enhance the overall desired outcome of FirstNet.”

But Verizon – like fellow FirstNet alternative Rivada – faces an uphill battle. 

On Monday, Montana became the 12th state/territory to opt in to AT&T’s build plan. That announcement followed similar decisions from the U.S. Virgin Islands, New Mexico, Michigan, and Maine at the start of August. West Virginia, New Jersey, Iowa, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, and Wyoming have all also accepted AT&T’s FirstNet state plans.

Montana’s opt-in, though, gives an example of where Verizon might be able to offer those complementary services to FirstNet – assuming they’re not already in the state plan.

In his acceptance statement, Montana Governor Steve Bullock cited how the improved network would benefit first responders like those currently battling wildfires in the state.

“This partnership will allow us to provide our first responders increased capabilities to communicate effectively with the public as quickly as possible,” Bullock observed. “As wildfires across the state impact our communities and our hometowns, it’s critical that we support the efforts of the men and women protecting Montana with all resources available.”

Fire response just happens to be one of the critical communications areas Verizon has highlighted lately.

Last month, Verizon pointed out it was lending communications support to more than 8,000 firefighters and first responders battling fires in several western U.S. states. In particular, Verizon noted its use of satellite communications technology in remote areas of California, Cell-on-Wheels deployments in Utah, and network repeaters in Arizona.

(Editor's note: An AT&T representative said the carrier has deployed 10 Satellite Cell-on-Light-Trucks and mini-SatCOLTs to support responses to six wildfires, and has also deployed three charging stations and an Emergency Communications Vehicle.)

But AT&T’s FirstNet SVP Chris Sambar told Wireless Week the carrier believes its solutions offer the best value, and remains hopeful states will continue to come on board.

“We launched state plans three months early as we knew some states were ready to move quickly,” Sambar commented. “We’re honored that more than 20 percent of the states and territories have already taken advantage of this opportunity, choosing the FirstNet and AT&T plan to build out the nationwide public safety broadband network in their state.”

Sambar said state feedback on the initial state plans was due on August 4. AT&T is currently reviewing and addressing those comments, and will begin its official 90-day clock in mid-September. From there, Governors will have until mid-December to make an opt-in/opt-out decision if they haven’t already done so.

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