A half-dozen venture capital firms will invest as much as $1.3 billion into Long Term Evolution, or LTE, development under a new initiative spearheaded by Verizon Wireless. The 4G Venture Forum, as the group is dubbed, includes Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, Charles River Partners, New Venture Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures, as well as LTE infrastructure providers Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. The venture firms will identify and fund ideas for devices and applications, while Verizon and the two infrastructure companies will test concepts through their labs and developer communities.
The venture firms have $1.3 billion available for LTE investment, a Verizon spokesman said, but haven’t dedicated the funds “because governance is different at each company.” It will be interesting to see just what kinds of apps and devices are funded through the 4G Venture Forum — and how Verizon chooses to handle them. I’ve criticized the nation’s largest carrier for failing to open up its network in a meaningful way to third-party offerings in spite of the openness requirements set forth by the Federal Communications Commission when Verizon won a chunk of the 700 MHz spectrum at auction last year.
Today’s announcement comes as Verizon is stepping up its LTE efforts in a big way. Several weeks ago, the carrier tested an LTE network in Boston (using Alcatel-Lucent gear) and Seattle (with Ericsson equipment), including streaming video, file transfers and web browsing. Verizon plans to launch LTE in up to 30 markets by 2010.