Thursday, October 17, 2013

Verizon Wireless nears superspeed AWS LTE unveiling

Verizon Wireless is about to unveil a new version of its LTE service that will put other U.S. carriers to shame. The service will leverage Verizon’s Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) spectrum, which we wrote about earliet this year. While it hasn't announced an official launch date, with the help of a handheld spectrum analyzer, GigaOM reader Milan Milanovic told the site on Monday that he had spotted AWS online in New York City.

With the use of AWS airwaves, which Verizon acquired in 2012 from a group of cable companies led by Comcast, Verizon Wireless should be able to double its data speeds. At the time, it was expected that the service would begin lighting up in some major cities, including New York City, in the following few months. That report was in May, so things seem to be proceeding as planned.

Speedtests have shown that AT&T's LTE variant, although not covering as much of the country as Verizon's, was at the top of the heap for performance. Verizon's new service would reverse that.

Milanovic was able to force his Verizon iPhone 5s to connect to it. Using Ookla’s Speedtest app, he saw download speeds of 80 Mbps and upload speeds of 15 Mbps. We wouldn't expect real-world performance to match this, though. Congestion (other users) would lower the speed to the expected doubling of Verizon Wireless' current speeds.

However, the question remains as to why Milanovic didn't see higher speeds. As a single user on what is probably a lightly utilized band, he should have seen more. Verizon is bonding two 20MHz channel bands together, which should theoretically support a ceiling of 150 Mbps (download).

Milanovic said he has received reports of similar "AWS network sightings" from other testers in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Currently, AT&T's LTE network is the speed king, with an average of 16.7 Mbps, according to PCMag’s most recent tests. Verizon wasn't even second, trailing T-Mobile's 13.11 Mbps with its 10.25 Mbps score.

Unlike Verizon, AT&T doesn’t have additional spectrum that it can use to create a larger bonded channel, so assuming there are no FUBARs, once Verizon goes live with AWS LTE, it will likely be the new speed king.

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