Hands-On: Video on LTE Is Just Like Watching at Home


How good is Verizon’s (s VZ) new mobile LTE service? So good that you can enjoy high-quality, 720p video streams on the go from services like YouTube, (s GOOG) Hulu and Netflix (s NFLX) without any stuttering or slowdown. That’s what GigaOM mobile guru Kevin Tofel found while shooting a quick hands-on video from his local Starbucks (s sbux).

In tests of YouTube, Hulu and Netflix streaming on his laptop with a Verizon USB dongle attached, Kevin found that all three services performed flawlessly. Unlike his attempt at streaming video on a 3G Android handset, where he found Flash (s ADBE) videos from sites like ABC.com, (s DIS) Fox.com (s NWS) and Dailymotion unwatchable, streaming video on Verizon’s so-called 4G network works just as well as streaming from your broadband connection at home. That’s good news for mobile users who want to be able to catch up on their favorite video services when not in range of a Wi-Fi network.

That said, just because users can stream high-bit rate video on Verizon’s LTE network doesn’t mean that they should; due to usage-based pricing for the 4G service, Netflix viewers could find themselves quickly bumping up against data caps.

Typical mobile users don’t have to worry as much about going over their streaming quotas, as network constraints typically mean lower-quality video streams sent over 3G networks. When it looked at the amount of video users could consume through AT&T’s 2 GB 3G data plan, Clicker estimated an AT&T subscriber could theoretically watch 17 hours of programming on YouTube or 13.65 hours of programming on Netflix.

The temptation of watching HD video streams on the go could get expensive fast, if users aren’t careful. Verizon’s LTE service is priced in-line with its 3G service plans, which means that users can pay $50 a month for 5 GB of data or $80 a month for 10 GB. Overages for the LTE network are $10 per GB, which could add up quickly for users that are streaming or downloading lots of video.

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Robert Drummer

By offering higher speed they are encouraging people to use more data.

A 5GB cap may have made sense on their 3G service but if you’re upping the speed by a factor of 10, shouldn’t you up the cap at the same multiple?

At 14Mbps (demonstrated real-world speed) a user could theoretically cap in 6 minutes.

Jochem Koole

Looks cool! However, I’m already annoyed by the background noises in this video. Can’t really see myself watching any series or films in a crowded coffee bar.

Kevin C. Tofel

My bad on the background noise – I was under the gun to find a place to work where the new LTE service was available and a Starbucks was the best I could do. I could have asked the baristas to turn off the holiday music and stop making drinks, but figured that was a *bit* too pushy. ;)


How does it compare with Sprint’s 4G service? No cap there, but sigh I do not live in a Sprint or Verizon 4G area…

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