Verizon Will Have LTE Smartphones in 2011

At the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona today, the next-generation 4G wireless service finally got some respect, with AT&T saying it will likely deploy the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard in 2011 rather than in 2012 and Verizon choosing vendors for its upcoming LTE rollout.

Verizon has chosen Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent as the initial vendors for the LTE rollout and is reporting speeds of between 50 and 60 Mbps downlink in test markets. This leaves other vendors who participated in the trials — Nortel, Motorola and Nokia-Siemens — out in the cold so far. As far as speeds go, once the carrier puts its millions of subscribers on the network, those speeds will change, but it’s still going to be better than the current 3G when it comes to delivering data.

And data’s what Verizon’s LTE network will be for, according to Verizon CTO Dick Lynch. When I asked him about LTE handset deployments, he said there will be a few handsets and laptop cards with LTE about a year after the 2010 LTE network launch, but he stressed that voice is going to be carried over the 3G network well into the next decade — LTE will be for devices. In the future, consumers will have 8-10 LTE-enabled devices that “the consumer won’t even know has broadband,” he said.

Lynch talked about LTE on cameras to automatically upload pictures once a memory card is full, and LTE in cars to deliver information and entertainment. Unfortunately he didn’t have time to tell me how or who Verizon would charge for access to the LTE network in these scenarios. For the world to experience the joys of ubiquitous broadband on everyday consumer devices like cameras, personal navigation devices and eReaders, prices for LTE chips need to cost less than $10 or (better yet) $5.

Verizon also needs to have a business model that doesn’t require pricey network connection subscriptions for the end consumer. Is Nikon going to pony up a network fee just so I can upload pics from my camera? Somehow I doubt it, which means Verizon, Nikon or some independent vendor is going to have to come up with a way to recoup those costs. Perhaps a membership fee to a web site where the pics are stored?

Although the details are still up in the air, Lynch is promoting Verizon’s open network for LTE-enabled devices, and he predicts an exabyte of data traveling over Verizon’s LTE network in 2013. For more details, check out his slide presentation.

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