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[qi:083] On its earnings conference call today, Verizon (s VZ) says it still hopes to have LTE commercially available by the first half of 2010. Verizon President and COO Denny Strigl gave the time frame, and didn’t indicate that the four-month delay in accessing the 700 MHz spectrum occupied by analog television signals would cause the carrier problems. In December, Verizon said it would speed up its LTE launch and start testing its fourth-generation wireless broadband network later this year.
The carrier has been consistently aggressive about the rollout of its LTE wireless broadband network, but two things may be fueling its rush: the consolidation of WiMAX spectrum by Clearwire (s clwr) and Sprint (s S) for a rival 4G service, and the rapid rise in mobile data use being driven, in part, by the iPhone. With Clearwire still silent about its Clear network deployment plans, and the credit crunch expected to slow the nationwide WiMAX build-out, Verizon may be hoping to steal Clearwire’s first-mover advantage.
LTE offers theoretical speeds of 150 Mpbs down and 30 Mbps up; more importantly, it would be an all-IP network better able to manage the demands of streaming data than those of voice. So with a rapid-roll out, Verizon has the opportunity to put pressure on the competition, as well as to create a network better suited to carrying the IP traffic-clogging mobile networks. It also plans to use its FiOS fiber network as the backhaul for its cell network, meaning the billions Verizon’s put into FiOS will benefit its wireline and wireless business. By next year, we’ll be that much closer to seeing if that investment pays off.