Verizon's LTE service is far ahead of its competitors in coverage. With the build-out more or less complete, it wouldn't be too surprising if Verizon sat back and took a break for a while. Of course, the company has no such intent. According to Verizon Wireless chief network officer Nicola Palmer, the company has big plans for its 4G network and beyond.
For starters, Verizon says its next step will be to fill in some of the blank spots in its coverage maps. Although its network already reaches far and wide, coverage can always be improved. It will do this with the use of small cells, or miniature base stations, that will be deployed in areas of high demand, such as inner cities and business districts. The small cells will be used to supplement areas where capacity is constrained. According to Verizon, 57% of all the data that travels its network runs on LTE 4G, and it expects this percentage to grow rapidly. It will start bringing small cells on line later this year.
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Next year, Verizon Wireless will offer its first phone to include VoLTE. VoLTE, or voice-over-LTE, uses VoIP technology to pass phone calls over the data network rather than the traditional voice network. This switch to IP-based services is a big one, and heralds many of the transformational changes down the road.
The first VoLTE-capable handsets are expected in early 2014, and Verizon implied that the service will be widely available when it launches. Palmer said that she's been impressed with the quality of VoLTE calls in trials being run by the company. By the end of 2014, Verizon will begin to sell devices that have only LTE radios on board, with no CDMA-EVDO radios.
As traffic on its 3G network declines, Verizon will start to re-farm the spectrum it uses for its 3G network and turn it around for LTE. In the long run, Verizon will offer LTE 4G in its 700-MHz spectrum, AWS spectrum, and PCS spectrum.
Future network technologies are still on the horizon. LTE-Advanced is the next step. Although Verizon already has the framework in place for LTE-A, it hasn't announced any concrete plans to launch LTE-A. LTE-A promises to double the already-quick speeds available on standard LTE networks.
There's plenty to look forward to, but there's also a lot of hard work that needs to get done. If Verizon has proven anything over the course of the last few years, it is that its network is its number-one priority. That's good news for Americans, who reap the benefits of speedy mobile broadband service.