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Verizon courts tech companies with opening of LTE center

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 8:05am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The grand opening of Verizon's Innovation Center in Waltham, Mass., yesterday could be a boon for tech companies looking to use LTE in their new products.

The facility, which houses 300 technicians and 135,000 square feet of lab space, will help companies develop new products and services that run on Verizon's LTE network.

"No one has a monopoly on good ideas," said Dan Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, at a ceremony marking the opening of the center. "We've asked what you could do if you can connect wirelessly to anything you can use, any utility you have. The LTE Innovation Center is going to answer that question."

By providing companies with help to develop LTE-based products, Verizon is helping to push the market forward, ultimately serving both its bottom line and the industry at large.

Staff at the center has already started working with tech firms to get new LTE products off the ground.

Executives from broadcast technology firm Nomad Innovations, digital jukebox company TouchTunes and robotic telepresence developer VGo spoke at the opening of the center about the crucial role the facility played in getting their products to market.

Bob Klingle, a former broadcast television sales executive who serves as CEO of Nomad, said that the support the company received at the center played a crucial role in getting its product off the ground.

Nomad has developed an LTE-based transmitter for live television broadcasts called LiveEdge that attaches to the back of a camera, allowing journalists to report from the field without expensive satellite-equipped news vans. Klingle said several top media outlets had already expressed interests in the product, including NBC, CBS and Fox.

Klingle said that before he found the Verizon Innovation Center, he had considered "mothballing" the company because of the difficulty it faced in financing engineering support to handle the wireless connectivity for its product.

"We struggled as a small company," he said, adding that it was difficult to secure investment financing for a product targeted at the foundering news industry. "They came together with this incredible support team."

Tim Root, chief technology officer and founder of VGo, and TouchTunes technology executive Andrej Todosic gave similar remarks.

"We're not experts at wireless radio. Having all this expertise in such close proximity was of extremely high value and provided us with competence and knowledge that we otherwise wouldn't have had access to," Todosic said.

TouchTunes used Verizon's Innovation Center to help it equip its digital jukeboxes with LTE connectivity so that they weren't dependent on the sometimes spotty Internet connections in bars, where the music players are typically located. "We didn't just tap into Verizon's LTE technology, we also expanded the reach of our product because we can take it places we never could before."

Root said the center provided VGo with the expertise to get the right kind of wireless connectivity to its robots, which are equipped with video telepresence technology. "They're world-class partners," Root said.

To date, more than 30 products have been developed and demonstrated in the center. Verizon installed a replica of its LTE network at the location in October 2009 so that developers could begin working on new products without affecting the commercial network. The replica network is still operating.

Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, the primary vendors for Verizon's LTE network, are founding participants in the Innovation Center, and Cisco and Samsung Mobile are premier participants.

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