Verizon to deploy LTE femtocells, small cells

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Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will begin deploying LTE small cells and femtocells sometime in the future to meet growing capacity demands, according to a recent filing the carrier made with the FCC. However, Verizon did not indicate when it would do so.

In the filing, Bill Stone, Verizon's executive director of network strategy, stated that "as the technology becomes available and matures, Verizon Wireless will be deploying small cells aggressively to increase system capacity." Parts of Stone's statement were redacted.

Verizon divulged the news as part of a wide-ranging filing the carrier made in support of its planned $3.9 billion purchase of nationwide AWS spectrum licenses held by SpectrumCo, a joint venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, as well as AWS holdings from Cox Communications.

Stone stated that even with the deployment of LTE small cells, they will not be enough to keep pace with users' growing data demands. Indeed, Verizon expects data traffic on is LTE network to exceed that of its CDMA EV-DO network in early 2013--and traffic will only keep ballooning from there. Further, Stone argued that LTE small cells are not likely to be available in the quantities Verizon would need early enough, though it is unclear what that timeframe is. Additionally, Stone stated that deploying LTE small cells comes with challenges, including providing adequate backhaul and getting necessary approvals from cell site owners.

In related statements, Stone said Verizon plans to deploy "a substantial number" of LTE femtocells sometime in the future, but again, the company argued that they will not provide enough capacity absent more spectrum. "While femtocells provide some congestion relief, they will never be able to meet the skyrocketing demand that I detailed above, because they offload only a small fraction of a sector's traffic," Stone stated. "Moreover, femtocells are much less effective at providing capacity when deployed close to a macro cell."

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said last week at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, that it plans to test small cells in its network later this year. The carrier also announced it counts "several hundred thousand" Cisco femtocells in its network. According to research commissioned by the Small Cell Forum (formerly the Femto Forum) and produced by Informa, small cells will outnumber macrocells by year-end, growing from 3.2 million deployed in 2012 to 59 million deployed by 2016.

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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