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Summary:

Verizon is pretty much done with its first LTE network, so now, according to its CTO, it’s ready to start on its second, using the new AWS airwaves its acquired from the cable companies.

verizon-4g-lte

Now that Verizon has closed its blockbuster spectrum deal with the cable operators it’s ready to break ground on its second 4G network. In an interview with FierceWireless, Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer said Verizon would deploy 5,000 LTE cellsites this year in the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) band, layering mobile data capacity onto the 4G network it’s already built in the 700 MHz band.

In 2014, Palmer added, Verizon will start building a much broader footprint in the new band. What’s more, Palmer said that Verizon would start selling its first AWS compatible devices in the next few months.

“You can’t have the network without compatible devices,” Palmer told Fierce’s Sue Marek. “We have already given the OEMs guidance on that strategy. The first half of this year we will see AWS-compatible devices in our lineup so when the network comes online in the second half, we will take advantage of that.”

There are some major implications in Verizon’s move:

  • Verizon is now ready to start focusing on capacity instead of coverage. Palmer said Verizon’s 700 MHz LTE network will cover 90 percent of the U.S. population this year, meaning there will be few populated places where Verizon customers can’t get a 4G signal. It has enough AWS spectrum to double its LTE capacity nationwide, and almost everywhere east of the Mississippi it can triple it. That means it will be able to support more 4G subscribers and more 4G devices and eventually it will be able to boost 4G speeds.
  • The AWS band uses 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz frequencies, which make it an ideal spectrum for urban deployments. The lower the frequency, the further radio waves propagate, so while 700 MHz was perfect for Verizon’s coverage network, you can expect Verizon to be more selective about where it builds the second network. It will likely target cities and other high-traffic areas and it may even USE AWS for its first indoor and outdoor small cells.
  • By moving to AWS, Verizon will actually have a 4G band in common with other North American carriers. T-Mobile’ and the Canadian operator use the band. AT&T owns AWS licenses as well and is already sells devices that support those frequencies (the iPhone 5 is one of them). Network fragmentation has been a huge problem in the U.S., requiring handset vendors to make different variants of their devices for different carriers. With the operators coalescing around AWS, we could get a step closer to a smartphones that work across all carriers’ networks.

Other operators have plans to launch LTE over a second band as well: AT&T will make use of its newly minted 4G band in the 2.3 GHz frequencies, while Sprint will refarm the 800 MHz airwaves currently occupied by its Nextel network for LTE. Both operators are still at least a year away from making those plans reality.

Verizon LTE footprint March 2013By putting LTE into a second band, Verizon could also become the first U.S. operator to start down the path toward the next-generation of mobile technology called LTE-Advanced. The first LTE-Advanced technique we’re likely to see is called carrier aggregation, which bonds two disparate spectrum bands together to create a single super-fast air link. Verizon could choose to merge its two LTE networks, effectively doubling the uplink and downlink speeds available to its customers.

Several U.S. operators — from Sprint and T-Mobile to Clearwire and Dish Network — have talked a big game about LTE-Advanced, abusing the term to make their networks seem more sophisticated than they are. Ironically, Verizon has never made any boasts about LTE-Advanced, but it might well be the first U.S. operator that commercially implements the first LTE-Advanced technique.

  1. “Verizon is ready to start focusing on capacity instead of coverage”.”Verizon is pretty much done with it’s first LTE network”……THE HELL IT IS!!!!! They better look at the map real close again as over 50% of Michigan is still 3G, and other states less than that!! Unless they plan on flipping a magic switch which lights up HUGE areas in the next few months they better quit making such foolish statements. I just inked a new two year contract and got a new HTC Droid DNA and if it doesn’t have AWS bands I am gonna be pi$$ed!!!!!

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    1. Most (all?) Verizon LTE phones don’t include the AWS bands, including the Droid DNA and iPhone 5. Not sure why they didn’t include them from the start, like AT&T’s LTE phones, but it might be because they bought the AWS spectrum from cable companies later on.

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  2. If you consider that Verizon has mostly “extended coverage” as LTE, then how can you say they will have 90%. The extended coverage area is 3G but with a very slight chance you might get LTE.

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