Verizon: LTE in 25 to 30 Markets By 2010

Posted by Sam Churchill on

At the Mobile World Congress trade show yesterday, Verizon Wireless CTO Dick Lynch announced (pdf) the carrier will launch LTE service in two cities in the U.S. this year, and in 25 to 30 markets in 2010.

It will use a non-standard version of LTE to meet the 2010 deployment date, says RCR Wireless. The company plans to initially use its 700 MHz spectrum for the buildout, but he did not say what the effort would cost.

During his keynote presentation, Lynch said he expects average LTE data rates of around 8 Mbps, 3-4 times faster than the current 2-3 Mbps promised by EV-DO Rev A. Because it’s shared spectrum, end users are unlikely to get the maximum speed. Verizon’s 3G EV-DO service typically tops out between 400 kbps and 700 kbps.

For every base station at the 700MHz band, three or four are needed at 2.6GHz, said Lynch. Conversely, that means 3-4 times the bandwidth per cell site would be required. But instead of more bandwidth, LTE at 700 MHz has less to work with — effectively half the 10MHz TDD channels of Mobile WiMAX.

Portland’s Mobile WiMAX system (which I am using to post this story), typically delivers 3-6 Mbps to end users (on 10 MHz channels). But that kind of bandwidth just won’t be available to Verizon on 700 MHz. So don’t expect unrealistic speeds.

In a subsequent interview following the presentation, Lynch declined to discuss average LTE data rates, saying it was too difficult to provide average, real-world data rates based the untested nature of the technology.

LTE trials have seen download rates of 50 to 60 Mbps peak speed, but these rates often do not reflect the typical bandwidth available for cellular carriers using the 700, 800 and 1900 Mhz bands.

Vendor Alcatel-Lucent was the big winner, nabbing contracts for all three aspects of Verizon Wireless’ LTE buildout: the IP Multimedia Subsystem portion, the enhanced packet core portion and the radio access network portion. L.M. Ericsson will join Alcatel-Lucent in the RAN and packet core buildouts.

Starent Networks also won a portion of Verizon Wireless’ packet core contract, and Nokia Siemens Networks will join Alcatel-Lucent in supplying IMS kit. Mobile packet core specialist Starent Networks is now confident that more will follow. “We’re clearly very excited. Verizon Wireless is a valued customer,” Starent’s CEO Ash Dahod tells Light Reading on the show floor in Barcelona.

Verizon Wireless did not put a price tag on the buildout. Verizon spent roughly $17 billion last year on its wireless and wireline networks.

Verizon’s Dick Lynch said the carrier does not expect a jump in its annual capital expenditures related to the LTE build, since it is essentially moving its spending from its EV-DO buildout (which Lynch said was largely finished) to its LTE buildout.

Six vendors competed for Verizon’s business in joint trials, says Telephony Magazine. Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel built trial networks in the U.S., while Nokia Siemens Networks, Motorola and Huawei built theirs in Europe. In the end, Verizon felt that Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent were furthest along in software development.

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone said they have been testing LTE networks in Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio and Northern New Jersey in the United States, as well as in Budapest, Düsseldorf, and Madrid in Europe, with a variety of network infrastructure providers.

Motorola’s video shows streaming HD video in their shuttle bus, including a live LTE handover. The vehicle also connects live to the Motorola booth at the Mobile World Congress. Other demos at the booth include:

  • LTE video streaming using Motorola’s headend solutions
  • An interactive comparison showing LTE’s quality of service
  • A UMTS-to-LTE handoff

Dailywireless received this response from Clearwire today:

Verizon’s 4G deployment plans are a testament to the fact that the existing 3G networks simply won’t support a rich ‘true broadband’ experience. The Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives, and consumers want to access it wherever they are – not just at home or in the office. Clearly, having more operators espousing the benefits of 4G can only serve to increase consumer awareness and demand for better services. This is a great place for Clearwire to be.

Not all 4G networks are created equal. Differences in spectrum holdings and underlying network architecture will deliver different user experiences. Today, Clearwire customers experience better speeds and bandwidth than what is being described as next year’s LTE networks. Clearwire continues to move full speed ahead with plans to introduce new mobile WiMAX markets, services and devices this year.

Lynch declined to discuss specifics of Verizon’s LTE service, including what it would cost end users or how it would be branded. Lynch said he expects the first LTE devices to be PC cards and dongles, and that LTE smartphones likely would hit the scene shortly thereafter.

LTE and WiMAX are only interim steps. The REAL “4G” standard is IMT Advanced, due around 2015. Cellular vendors are pushing LTE Advanced while WiMAX vendors are pushing 802.16m (pdf). Both are expected to deliver 100 Mbps mobile (using lots of MIMO and bandwidth).

Alvarion, Cisco, Intel, Nokia Siemens, Alcatel Lucent, Motorola, Huawei and ZTE all pledged their continued support of WiMAX at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona. The WiMax Forum claims 430 million people can now get their flavor of wireless broadband. By the end of next year, the group expects 800 million people to be in range of WiMax service.

But GSM Association CEO Rob Conway probably expressed the opinion of most cellular carriers when he said, “LTE is our future. You can talk about WiMax if you want, but it is a sideshow to this main event.”

Cellular money is with voice-centric LTE. But the future is data. Both approaches seem likely to be successful. The degree of their success is the topic of much speculation.

Other Mobile World Congress articles on Dailywireless include; Mobile World Congress: HSPA, WiMAX & LTE Faceoff, Mobile World Congress: Handsets, Nvidia: Turbo Boost for Android and WinMobile, The 8 Megapixel Phone, Handsets: Open, Open, Open, Cisco Beamforms Russia & Kazakhstan, TeleNav Does Turn-By-Turn on Android, 2009 Mobile World Congress and Qualcomm: Our UMB Standard? Furgetaboutit.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 9:03 am .

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