GSMA Mobile World Congress: Verizon opts for LTE-based network

The battle between LTE and Wimax for supremacy in 4G mobile technology may be over before it has begun.

The battle between LTE and Wimax for supremacy in 4G mobile technology may be over before it has begun.

US-based Verizon said today it would build its new superfast mobile broadband network on LTE (long-term evolution) using technologies from Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent.

Announcing the decision during his keynote speech to the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, executive vice-president and chief technology officer Dick Lynch said Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone, would switch on America's first next-generation network in 2010.

Verizon's announcement came on the heels of joint Verizon-Vodafone field trials of LTE technologies using existing spectrum licences in the US and Europe. The tests showed peak download rates of 50-60Mbps, but Lynch did not commit to these for the commercial launch.

The decision is expected to jump-start deployment of LTE networks globally. Verizon has 80 million customers and pan-US coverage, while Vodafone has 289 million customers and a global footprint.

Vodafone's global chief technology officer, Steve Pusey, endorsed the decision. "As well as supporting these plans for the US market, Vodafone continues to work in close cooperation with Verizon Wireless on a range of initiatives designed to drive the commercial development of LTE, including an extensive programme of trials," he said.

Lynch said Verizon Wireless' LTE network deployment would provide ubiquitous global wireless broadband connectivity and mobility to meet business customer demands. These included higher bandwidth, low-latency services that work in the US and globally, and which "mobilise" many of the applications customers use when "tethered" to high-bandwidth wired networks.

Alcatel-Lucent CEO and former BT boss Ben Verwaayen said LTE's bandwidth and its ability to co-exist with the current 3G platform made it possible to lay the next-generation technology foundation.

This would make viable new forms of communications using both fixed and wireless, as well as mobile broadband, he said.

Verizon Wireless said it had chosen Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent as key suppliers for the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) network. This would enable rich multimedia applications, regardless of access technology. IMS will be a cornerstone technology in the evolution of Verizon's services infrastructure, Lynch said.

Verizon plans to offer IMS-based IP converged applications and services on its wireless and landline broadband networks. LTE will be one of the key wireless access networks linked to the IMS technology.

Lynch said building and offering commercial services over LTE while expanding its FiOS fibre network was a consistent and complementary broadband strategy.

Verizon's capital spending was almost $17bn in 2008. Lynch said LTE network costs would be within the company's overall programme as spending shifts from older technologies to new ones such as LTE.

The company expected to maintain commercial service on its 3G service well into the next decade, he said.

Lynch also announced the creation of the Verizon LTE Innovation Center to applications development for LTE networks. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, it will have start-up funding from Nerizon, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent.

Lynch said several companies had already expressed interest in the centre. Their interests were in LTE-based solutions for consumer electronics, machine-to-machine, and business products segments.

Using the 700MHz spectrum it acquired recently, Verizon Wireless will expand trials this summer with a commercial launch in 2010, Lynch said. He planned an "aggressive deployment" throughout Verizon Wireless' network, as well as new areas.

He said the 700MHz spectrum for LTE deployment permitted quick deployment of a high-quality wireless broadband network that gave excellent coverage and in-building penetration at a cost "significantly below" current levels.

"The appetite for new and innovative broadband services is insatiable: People want new and customised content, relevant information and services, and increased opportunities to communicate with each other and the world around them," Lynch said.

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