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Verizon details LTE launch plans

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 8:35am
Brad Smith, Wireless Week

SAN FRANCISCO — Verizon Wireless took the lid off plans for its nationwide LTE network launch Wednesday at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications show, unveiling 38 cities and 110 million people the network will cover by the end of the year. That's 70 percent of the U.S. population.

Lowell McAdam, president and COO of Verizon, didn't specify what device or devices will be offered at network launch but did say there would be USB modems, tablet computers and handsets announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in early January. There have been reports a USB modem will be available for the initial launch.

The 38 initial markets, which include most major metropolitan areas, as well as some medium-size markets, are more than what Verizon had initially hinted. Earlier this year, the carrier said the LTE network, which uses 700 MHz spectrum, would cover 25 to 30 markets with 100 million people by the end of the year.

Detroit is one of the metro areas not initially covered. McAdam said that's because of cross-border interference that needs to be resolved.

As an introduction to his LTE announcement, McAdam said he thinks the wireless industry finally is "on the cusp" of a wireless data revolution. He said LTE will enable a rapid expansion of wireless data that will transform smart offices, transportation and "billions of smart connections" with machine-to-machine communications. Verizon's LTE network, he said, will have a major in-building penetration advantage that will "connect people, places and things in ways that are much richer and multi-dimensional."

In addition to the 38 metropolitan areas, Verizon's LTE network also will cover 60 commercial airports, McAdam said. The carrier also has been working with rural operators to make its spectrum available for their shared use, he said, and has reached agreements with five of these rural operators already. Discussions are underway with a dozen more rural operators, with about 200 rural operators interested.

"This is a significant shift for the industry," he said.

In a nod to the future, McAdam also said Verizon Wireless will scratch its "walled garden" approach because "in a 4G world, we need to turn that guarded model inside out." The operator will transform its business model, he said, because it realizes that innovation in applications and use will come from outside the company. Verizon will open its network, applications and location technologies to outside developers, he said, although not specifying exactly how that transformation will take place.

He cited partnerships Verizon already has developed with companies like Google, Skype and others as "the building blocks for the future."

Verizon's trials with LTE have shown "amazing performance," McAdam said, including average throughput of 5 to 12 Mbps on the downlink, 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink and latency of 30 milliseconds. "Those two things make LTE so transformative," he said, by providing near-real-time response for gaming, commerce, surveillance, dispatch and response to natural disasters.

In a news conference, McAdam declined to say if Verizon Wireless will soon launch the Apple iPhone, but he said a device like that could benefit from the kind of data rates LTE will offer.

McAdam said the LTE network will cover 200 million people in 2012 and 285 million in 2013, which would equal the current 3G network coverage. "The exciting thing about the C Block (700 MHz) spectrum we bought is that it covers virtually the whole country," he said.

At the news conference, McAdam said pricing for the LTE network will be announced closer to the network launch. But he did say Verizon likely will shift its pricing away from unlimited data plans because spectrum is a finite resource.

The executive also said the 39th market will be West Lafayette, Ind., the home of Purdue University. That's because Purdue is working with the operator to have a fully integrated wireless campus, including new applications for its faculty and students. Other universities also likely will work with Verizon on campus LTE networks, he said.

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