Verizon Switches to GSM's Side For Ultra Highspeed 4G Technology

Illustration for article titled Verizon Switches to GSM's Side For Ultra Highspeed 4G Technology

Verizon Wireless today announced it would support "Long Term Evolution" (LTE), the super fast 4G technology currently in testing from Nokia and its European friends in the 3GPP group, and operating at a blistering 100Mbps. It's certainly hot technology, but one seen as an extension of GSM's high-speed packet technology. This is a rejection of CDMA's EV-DO (which has a faster Rev. C that could have been rolled out) and a definite rejection of WiMax, which has been Sprint's chosen 4G technology. As dramatic as the shift is, it's not totally surprising when you look at Verizon's historic lack of compatibility with its European co-owner, Vodafone, an early LTE supporter. It also fits with Verizon's new pledge of openness: presumably this means interchangeable SIM cards for easier-to-swap phones and mobile devices. (Press release with lots of nice details after the jump.)



Technology Platform to be Trialed in 2008

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. - Verizon today announced plans to develop and deploy its fourth generation mobile broadband network using LTE - Long Term Evolution - the technology developed within the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards organization. The selection of LTE provides Verizon and Vodafone - joint owners of U.S.-based Verizon Wireless - with a unique opportunity to adopt a common access platform with true global scale and compatibility with existing technologies of both companies.

Verizon and Vodafone have a coordinated trial plan for LTE that begins in 2008. Trial suppliers include Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia-Siemens, and Nortel. These suppliers, along with others in the world community, have contributed significantly towards development of the standards in 3GPP. Discussions with device suppliers have expanded beyond traditional suppliers such as LG, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and Sony Ericsson, as consumer electronics companies anticipate embedded wireless functionality in their future products.

Working within 3GPP, Verizon and Vodafone, as well as a broad group of infrastructure suppliers, device suppliers, and technology companies from around the globe, have advanced the standards to enable a technology that will deliver unprecedented wireless broadband service for high performance mobile computing, multimedia, and consumer electronic devices and applications. The technology is designed to deliver mobile data networks with higher speed and throughput performance, lower latency, global roaming, and improved efficiencies.

Today's LTE announcement builds on Verizon Wireless' technology leadership as the first company to launch high-speed wireless broadband service in the United States using CDMA Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) technology. Its data innovation and leadership have been marked by the introduction of new multimedia handsets and innovative applications such as V CAST Music, V CAST Video, VZ NavigatorSM, V CAST games, e-mail, Internet access, and picture and video messaging on a variety of devices, including handsets, PDAs and laptops.

Richard Lynch, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Verizon Communications observed that "while this next generation technology will be exciting to develop and deploy, it comes at a time when we are adding record numbers of customers to our existing CDMA2000 1x and EV-DO networks. We relish the challenge of preparing for the time when our customers start demanding such 4G capabilities, while continuing the expansion and operation of our existing technologies for many years to come."

"The company's move toward a 4G network is driven by our vision of pervasive wireless Internet connectivity and mobility," said Lynch. "Customers want to be truly untethered with advanced communication devices that provide functionality comparable to today's wired networks - whether it's downloading or uploading video, gaming, downloading their favorite music, or social networking. They want to be able to communicate in new and innovative ways whenever and wherever they choose around the globe. 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."

"Vodafone is delighted to be working alongside Verizon in the development of LTE technology, and we're looking forward to assessing the results of the joint engineering trials. We fully support Verizon's decision to select LTE as their next generation wireless broadband solution," said Steve Pusey, Vodafone's global chief technology officer. "We expect LTE to form a key part of Vodafone's future technology strategy, and the prospect of moving towards a common platform with Verizon Wireless is an attractive long-term goal. LTE will build on the capabilities of Vodafone's 3G broadband High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network technology, which is available across the entire Vodafone 3G footprint."

"Today's 4G announcement, coupled with our Open Development initiative announced earlier this week present a major growth opportunity for Verizon Wireless," said Doreen Toben, chief financial officer of Verizon. "Fourth generation's higher data speeds will usher in a new era of wireless applications and appliances, all of which can benefit from connecting to the nation's premier wireless network."


Wi-Max, LTE, and EV-DO RevC (aka UMB) are all so startlingly different from the current technologies (and similar to each other), that it really doesn't make a difference.

The network topologies of each diverge significantly from the previous tech: there is no Radio Network Controller (aka Base Station Controller) to control mobility, so the Radio Access Network's topology flattens out considerably. The core network elements (your SGSN/PDSN, etc) also change pretty considerably to match. This means a radical change in your network no matter which one you choose, which makes Verizon picking LTE seem much less surprising.

UMB was looking pretty dead while Spring was in bed with Clearwire. Now that's not so certain. Either way, they're all OFDM technologies with some minor differences in the channel structure which will make them incompatible with each other, but from the end-user's standpoint the performance of each should be similar, so it's a big ol' "who cares". Trying to speculate right now on which tech will have the best handsets, etc, is silly, and can only be based on name recognition (I've heard of WiMax, so it must be better). Believe me, if LTE takes off as the successor to UMTS, Nokia, Sony Ericcson and all the rest will be rolling out devices like gangbusters.

As for the current GSM networks moving to LTE, they haven't even finished transitioning to UMTS yet, so don't get ahead of yourself! Just based on the ongoing investments needed in UMTS, and the snails pace that these developments *actually* occur at, don't read too much into the "Trial in 2008" thing. "Trial in 2008" almost certainly really means "4 base stations and two access terminals working in '08, with the real trial starting in '09". I'd be surprised if there were *real* commercial deployments (and not tiny little fake ones to tout network superiority) before late 2010 at the earliest. Everyone always over-promises on this junk.

The good news is, 3G is really starting to hit its stride, and its performance is actually pretty good. Enjoy the upcoming UTMS and EV-DO RevA handsets, they're only going to get cheaper, and they'll beat the hell out of EDGE and CDMA 1x Data. I bet Sprint supporting the Kindle is only the beginning of the movement to embed 3G in everything, and it's going to be awesome. (I can't wait for that UTMS iPhone!)