Verizon on Thursday disclosed plans to roll out its fourth-generation mobile broadband network using a technology called Long Term Evolution, while also adopting a common access platform with Vodafone to provide services worldwide based on the technology.
LTE is a high-speed cellular technology developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project standards organization, known as 3GPP. LTE is an upgrade to High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a GSM implementation of a 3G cellular technology that is capable of providing speeds of up to 10 Mbps and global roaming.
Nearly 24 million subscribers worldwide will be using services based on LTE by 2012, according to Juniper Research.
LTE earlier this month was chosen by the GSM Association as the preferred standard for fourth-generation wireless services. The other two proposed standards were WiMax and Qualcomm-backed Ultra Mobile Broadband.
Verizon and Vodafone, the joint owners of U.S. cellular carrier Verizon Wireless, will begin testing LTE starting next year. LTE equipment will be supplied by leading vendors Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia-Siemens, and Nortel; all five have collaborated with the 3GPP in developing high-speed cellular standards.
Nortel is a long-time partner of Verizon, providing the carrier with networking gear for advanced wireless services. Last year, Nortel announced a 5-year, $2-billion agreement to provide Verizon with 3G technology known as EVDO.
"4G is all about the user experience, allowing not only mobile video, music, and gaming, but also a whole lot of new connections in our cameras, our cars, and even our home appliances. With consumers eager to take advantage of all these possibilities, the network will experience significant increases in bandwidth demand," said Richard Lowe, president of carrier networks at Nortel, in an e-mail.
Verizon also plans to work with consumer electronics makers, in addition to mobile phone makers, since there will be demand for all types of devices with embedded LTE functionality in the future, the company said. The phone makers include LG Electronics, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and Sony Ericsson.
"A number of factors are setting the stage for our 4G network migration; most importantly, our view of customers' evolving appetite for more information, entertainment, and functionality, combined with an increasing customer expectation for easy access, high speed, easy handling, and seamless mobility. With a host of new devices and applications, and a particular focus on embedded wireless in virtually every piece of electronics you buy in any store, we believe LTE is the best technology with global scale to deliver on the promise," said Richard Lynch, Verizon's executive VP and CTO, said in a statement.
Verizon's decision to embrace LTE is a positive development in the wireless industry, just like the decision to open up its wireless network to outside mobile devices, software, and applications starting next year.
Going forward, however, the carrier's cellular services arm, Verizon Wireless, will be faced with several challenges as it deploys LTE. Such a deployment will be a natural transition for Vodafone since it already uses GSM/HSDPA technology in Europe, Verizon Wireless uses CDMA technology, which was developed by Qualcomm and is incompatible with GSM/HSDPA. Verizon could have chosen a next-generation CDMA technology as an upgrade, but both Vodafone and Verizon have stated in the past that choosing LTE as a common platform would allow their customers to roam freely between the carriers' networks.
Verizon said it will continue supporting its CDMA customers and expanding its existing 3G EVDO network for years to come. It's still unclear what the carrier plans to do once those customers start demanding 4G capabilities.