Verizon Wireless has chosen Boston and Seattle for its LTE trials and plans to begin the rollout in the two cities by the end of the year.
The two cities were first mentioned publically at a recent investment analyst meeting in which Verizon President and COO Denny Strigl clarified the firm's "current game plan with LTE." He added: "We are working on a launch of commercial LTE services and up to 30 markets next year. Our plan is to cover 100 million POPS. In 2011 and 2012, we will continue to expand significantly with the ultimate goal being to cover all of our POPS with this great product by the end of 2013."
The choice of Boston and Seattle seems logical because Verizon Wireless operates its LTE Innovation Center in suburban Boston and recently signed an important agreement with Microsoft, located in suburban Seattle, whereby the software giant will provide the search function for Verizon Wireless customers.
"LTE will give Verizon Wireless a big competitive advantage," said wireless expert Joe Nordgaard, managing director of Spectral Advantage, in an interview Thursday. "They are putting their 700 MHz spectrum to good use." He explained that Verizon Wireless' acquisition of a wide swath of 700 MHz spectrum in last year's FCC auction is important because of the excellent propagation attributes of the spectrum, which give it great "reach" both indoors and outdoors.
Verizon Wireless, which is 45% owned by Vodafone Group, hasn't said much publically about LTE pricing, although John Killian, Verizon executive vice president and chief financial officer, indicated at the July 27 meeting with analysts that the company will monitor LTE pricing structure as the service is rolled out over a 12 month period. Verizon officials were not immediately available Thursday for comment.
Nordgaard, who said he has no knowledge of Verizon's pricing plans, said he expects the company to be "reasonably competitive with pricing for existing services" with its LTE service. He added that Verizon's current EV-DO nationwide network is "rock solid" but isn't like to be cannibalized at least initially by the LTE service.
"Clearly there's an appetite for high speed," said Nordgaard. "They'll just have to figure out what to charge for it."
LTE is expected to deliver speeds and throughput to mobile handsets 15 to 100 times faster than existing wireless services. Many of the estimates, however, are based on research laboratory trials and real world experience will have to come later. Clearly, though, LTE will be an order of magnitude more robust than most existing wireless services. It is relatively compatible with existing wireless infrastructures including CDMA2000's EV-DO, W-CDMA, cdmaOne, and GSM architectures.
LTE will require a new generation of handsets and Nokia, LG, Samsung and other handset makers have been reported to be working on devices for LTE, although none have been formally launched as yet.
Several hardware manufacturers have been working on LTE for Verizon including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Starent Networks.
The news of the planned rollouts in Boston and Seattle may not be welcomed by Sprint Nextel and its WiMax partner Clearwire, which has been racing to deploy its high speed wireless technology in several cities by year end. Sprint recently said it plans to rollout WiMax in Seattle later this year, setting the stage for a comparison between its 4G service with Verizon Wireless' LTE service. Sprint plans to begin offering WiMax in Boston next year. Another major competitor, AT&T, has said it doesn't plan to move to LTE until 2011.
"This (the Boston and Seattle rollouts) gives Verizon a big competitive advantage," said Nordgaard. "It strengthens Verizon Wireless' leadership in the U.S. and throughout the world."
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