Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) is still months away from rolling out LTE network No. 2 using its recently acquired cable company airwaves, but that hasn’t stopped it from seeding its customer base with devices that will support the new 4G frequencies. Other press reports have claimed this new network will double speeds available to those supported devices, but that’s not the case. This is more of a capacity upgrade than a speed boost, but customers will definitely see their mobile internet experience improve.
Verizon is selling seven devices that sport LTE radios in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) band – including the popular Samsung Galaxy S 4 and Nokia’s(s NOK) latest Windows(s MSFT) phone, the Lumia 928. When the new network goes live, Verizon will ship out a software update that will activate its dormant AWS radios, Verizon spokesman Tom Pica said.
The other AWS-capable devices are Samsung’s two 10-inch Android(s GOOG) tablets, two Verizon Jetpack mobile hotspots and a USB dongle. The current LTE iPhone 5(s aapl) iteration used by Verizon doesn’t support the AWS band, but that could change with future versions. Meanwhile, the forthcoming BlackBerry(s bbry) Q10 will be able to access the new network, Pica said.
Customers won’t necessarily get faster speeds (though they might experience some initial bandwidth gains over these less-crowded AWS airwaves), but they will have access to a lot more network capacity. Verizon will be adding anywhere from 20 MHz to 40 MHz of new spectrum to its LTE systems – either doubling or tripling its current 4G capacity.
What’s more, Verizon will be focusing the new LTE systems in congested urban centers. It will overlay capacity at cell sites where demand is highest and in some cases surgically inserting bandwidth into highly trafficked indoor and outdoor areas using small cells. Bottom line: customers with newer AWS-capable devices will have access to a hell of a lot more network and enjoy a better mobile data experience in the exact places that experience tends to suffer.
Eventually Verizon will be able to use new LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation techniques to combine its two 4G networks into a single superfast system, but we’re still a year or two away – and another generation of handsets – from seeing that capability.
Going forward, Pica said, Verizon will require its device makers to include AWS support for most new LTE devices. So even if your current smartphone won’t work on the forthcoming network, your next Verizon smartphone most likely will.