Saturday, December 07, 2013

Verizon Wireless increases LTE capacity up to three times as it rolls out AWS spectrum

We've been reporting on Verizon Wireless upgraded LTE rollout for a few months, and on Thursday -- the third anniversary of the company's LTE launch -- Verizon quietly announced the improvements, now live in some major cities.

The improvements, as we noted earlier, will not just allow Verizon Wireless to surpass AT&T in terms of LTE speed, but also increase capacity on its network. The company's CFO recently said that Verizon's network was straining under the load of its LTE users. In some places, a drop into 3G mode -- which means slow CDMA 3G -- is sometimes the result.

With the use of AWS airwaves, which Verizon acquired in 2012 from a group of cable companies led by Comcast, Verizon Wireless can give users peak speeds of up to 80Mbps while increasing capacity in some areas by as much as three times.

For example, in downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles, capacity has been increased by 150 percent. Meanwhile, in other major cities such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.. Verizon has tripled its LTE capacity.

Why the difference between the locales? To make these improvements, Verizon has bonded 20MHz channels to give users 40MHz of spectrum to work with, twice as big as before. However, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, it wasn't able to create that large a spectrum "window," so the improvements only see 30 MHz of spectrum -- thus, an improvement of 1.5x vs. 3x.

The company was mostly mum on the improvements in its anniversary blog post. It said:
With the most reliable 4G LTE network, the largest footprint, and deployment of its Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum now adding capacity nationwide, the company is ahead of the competition in terms of quality, coverage and technology.
What’s next for Verizon Wireless? Deployment of AWS spectrum in most major markets is adding capacity to the network, as more than 66 percent of the company’s data traffic now rides on 4G LTE.
One can see that Verizon Wireless didn't place a ton of emphasis on the AWS change. In fact, its summary statement actually placed more emphasis on upcoming changes in 2014: Voice over LTE (VoLTE), which is still not available, and 4G LTE roaming for Verizon Wireless customers outside the U.S., beginning in select countries.

Why isn't Verizon making a bigger deal out of its changes? Speaking to GigaOm, Verizon Wireless Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer noted the truth, that everyone's mileage will vary. There can be innumerable reasons, such as nearness to a tower, the number of other people connected, and more.
You could see 80 Mbps today and 20 Mbps tomorrow and then 10 Mbps the next day.
Thus, as some companies like to do, Verizon is taking the safe route. The company feels that, while continuing to advertise the 5-12Mbps speeds it has already been touting, if it exceeds those numbers, all the better.

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