Friday, September 25, 2009

Verizon Wireless Plans Mass LTE Deployment by W. David Gardner

Verizon Wireless is planning to light up its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) nationwide network next year in one fell swoop rather than deploying it in a traditional market-by-market rollout, according to Tony Melone, the firm's senior vice president and chief technology officer.

The rollout "will be as close to all-at-once as possible," Melone said in an interview in which he noted that the firm is right on schedule with its LTE wireless technology. "We want to give our customers a significant footprint," and won't "tease," them he said, with trial deployments.

In the interview, in the wake of his talk on Verizon Wireless' LTE project this week at the 2009 PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Show, Melone described the move to LTE from Verizon's existing CDMA EV-DO network as an "overlay" and not a "switchover." He added that the LTE network is able to use much of the existing infrastructure of the CDMA network including towers and backhaul gear.

Melone also discussed what consumers can expect from the new LTE network. "You will need new devices to take [full] advantage of LTE," he said. "But there won't be a need to force migrate" The carrier's CTO explained that existing Verizon Wireless users will be able to continue to use their current devices and handsets after LTE is commercially launched.

LTE will enable traditional-type handsets and PDAs, but also some non-traditional devices like the IREX Technologies e-book reader, GM's OnStar auto security solution, and even court-ordered electronic bracelets. Melone noted that Verizon has certified more than 55 devices to operate on its 3G network and they will be available also for use with the LTE network. Most of them are machine-to-machine (M2M) units.

The company, which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications (55%) and Vodafone Group (45%), has launched trial sites in suburban Boston and suburban Seattle. The Verizon LTE Innovation Center in suburban Boston is nearly completed, Melone added.

In his PCIA talk this week, Melone sought to scotch rumors that his firm's LTE rollout is falling behind schedule. In the interview, he maintained that deployment is on schedule. The firm, however, hasn't yet given specific dates on its nationwide deployment, but it has pledged it will happen in 2010 in 25 to 30 markets. The company will seek to have the service available for some 100 million POPs (points of presence) in 2010 and continue to deploy the network over the next two and three years.

Melone said Verizon's Developer Community and its V CAST Apps will launch by the end of the year, enabling developers to take advantage of the launch to bring their own products and services to market.

"We can build all the bells and whistles and make lots of bold claims," said Melone, "but none of it will matter if the network -- and all of the underlying infrastructure that supports the network -- isn't fundamentally reliable. There will be no substitute for good old-fashioned engineering. Reliability built in at the start based on rigid engineering standards and a disciplined approach year-after-year will continue to be our mantra."

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