Verizon’s CTO on Wi-Fi Plans and the End of 3G

Verizon CTO Tony Melone

Verizon will use Wi-Fi in the home and in crowded venues such as sports stadiums according to Tony Melone, the CTO of Verizon Communications (s vz) who answered reporter’s questions today at the TIA conference in Grapevine, Texas. Melone, who was the former Verizon executive responsible for LTE roll out, said in a speech today that Wi-Fi was an important part of the company’s strategy. When later asked what that meant for the operator’s relationship with Boingo he said, “I don’t think it [Boingo] is central to our strategy.”

The most important elements he said were in the home, making it easy for customers to transition to the Wi-Fi network when they’re at home and adding Wi-Fi to venues where it would be impossible to get adequate cell coverage. “We won’t use it ubiquitously to cover up flaws and capacity limitations,” Melone said in what seems like a dig at AT&T (s t). “In my mind it’s much more effective to invest in your 3G and 4G environments than rely on Wi-Fi.”

The other significant nugget Melone dropped was in the context of the operators’ plans for voice over LTE, which are progressing and should be in all some phones by later in 2012. But he took it one step further saying that it is possible that by 2013 some devices might come to market without 3G radios, depending on how the consumer market responds to the LTE deployment. He stressed that Verizon wouldn’t push people off the 3G network, nor did it have capacity problems there, but still the move is pretty aggressive. That’s either Verizon being confident in VoLTE or it’s eager to clear folks off the 3G spectrum– or maybe a little of both.

Other elements worth mentioning from Melone’s remarks today are:

  • FiOS today covers 15 million homes and will expand to 18 million in “the near future.”
  • Verizon is testing 1 gigabit per second FiOS service to the home and even 10 gigabit per second connections, although Melone said the need for that kind of speed was” debatable.”
  • On the wireless side, Verizon will cover its 3G areas with LTE, “and then some.” Melone said the company would expand to rural areas through its rural 4G program and in some markets where it does not have 3G coverage it will build out LTE coverage.
  • Verizon has some cool stuff in its labs. Melone mentioned that Verizon is working with more than 60 developers at one of its innovation centers and there are 30 products near productions including a handheld TV camera with an embedded LTE modem that eliminates the need for satellite trucks. Others include a camera with LTE that can be used by remote workers and a kiosk that uses LTE to connect people to an expert wherever the expert might be.
  • Verizon is still on a summer timeframe for introducing new pricing for LTE and that price will be usage-based. However, he didn’t think most consumers would be hurt under a plan that had a 3GB limit for example.

I might disagree with him on that, but we’ll still have to wait and see what Verizon unveils in the next few months.