Verizon's LTE plans
Unlike Clearwire, Verizon won't have a coast-to-coast 4G network ready to go by year-end. However, it does plan to have its LTE network up and running in up to 30 major markets with many more to come in 2011. Tony Melone, the executive vice president and CTO of Verizon Wireless, says that the company has spent the past year getting its 4G infrastructure ready to go online later this year, including its antennas, backhaul and leasing work with tower owners.
From there, Verizon will work to substantially expand its LTE network all throughout 2011, as it plans to double its total number of 4G markets by the early part of 2012. By the end of 2013, the company plans to have its entire current 3G footprint covered by its 4G technology and to also expand its 4G services into areas that don't currently have 3G. Melone says that the company will primarily be using the 22MHz chunk of spectrum it obtained during the 700MHz auction in 2008 to build out its LTE network nationwide.
"The big thing for us is that 100% of the 700MHz spectrum we won in the FCC auction a couple years back will be used for 4G services," he says. "The 700MHz spectrum gives us tremendous propagation advantages versus the people who are deploying LTE in the higher spectrum ranges. 700MHz spectrum means that there will be fewer sites required and we'll have better building penetration."
The company is also working with device manufacturers to ensure a healthy device ecosystem will be available for users when the network launches later this year.
"So far, by being aggressive and deploying this technology before anyone else, it seems that the ecosystem has moved with us," Melone says. "So there are many chipsets and devices that are ready to go and we feel bullish about getting out to the gates early."
Early adopters of LTE will find, however, that the devices will be data-only at first and thus won't support voice. To rectify this, AT&T, Verizon and several other telecom companies and device manufacturers joined forces late last year to help develop voice and SMS standards for LTE. Last month, the GSM Association decided to adopt the carriers' profile for Voice over LTE in an effort to avoid fragmentation of LTE voice standards before the technology becomes more widely deployed. The association said that it embraced the VoLTE Initiative's IMS-based approach since IMS "supports all voice call service features such as call waiting, call hold and call barring."
Melone says that even if the voice standards for LTE are wrapped up by year-end, users shouldn't expect 4G voice services to be widely available at the outset of Verizon's network launch. Rather, the company will rely on a combination of 3G for voice and 4G for data services on its initial device offerings, he says.
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