Verizon CTO promises global LTE roaming, with caveats

Though hamstrung by the bevy of frequencies upon which it will be deployed, LTE will nonetheless be available for globetrotters who need international roaming, said a Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) executive.

"There will absolutely be roaming for 4G LTE devices," said Tony Melone, Verizon CTO, during a press event at the Telecommunications Industry Association's annual meeting in Dallas. "And where 4G LTE isn't available or it's not economical to support those LTE frequencies, we'll allow customers to fall back on 3G HSPA networks."

Quoted in a CNET article, Melone said that he believes roughly eight different radios can be supported on a single device, though that may grow to 12 as technology advances. That means Verizon will be limited in the number of international bands it can support once it gets done loading up devices with radios to support its own spectrum, which includes 700 MHz, 850 MHz,1900 MHz, 1710-1755MHz and 2110-2155 MHz. There are an estimated 38 possible frequency combinations that can be used for LTE worldwide.

"We need to look at what band plans countries around the world are planning for with their 4G LTE deployments. And then we have to make some bets. There's so much uncertainty now, we are limited in saying which ones we'll support and when," he said.

Melone also said Verizon would be unlikely to enable its devices to roam on slivers of 700 MHz spectrum used by other U.S. carriers. "If we add 700 MHz bands in the U.S., it's just one less frequency band we can offer for global roaming," he said.

Verizon holds 700 MHz spectrum mainly in Band Class 13, while AT&T (NYSE:T) uses spectrum in Band Class 17 and other operators have licenses in Band Class 12.

Melone's comments were made as U.S. regulators examine whether to mandate roaming capability across all 700 MHz spectrum band classes. In a filing with the FCC, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) revealed that it is developing a chipset that can support at least seven bands--three below 1GHz, three higher bands plus one very high band, likely at 2.5-2.6 GHz.The company urged the FCC to not issue mandates at this early stage of the market before it is clear which band combinations customers might actually need.

Globally, the debate over fragmented LTE spectrum continues to rage as well, with Seizo Onoe, head of NTT DoCoMo's R&D strategy division, adding his voice to the discussion by saying LTE should be deployed in existing spectrum that has been refarmed from other technologies rather than offered on newly assigned spectrum. He also called for vendors to dedicate more effort to supporting multiple LTE bands. Onoe made his comments during the Computex show in Taipei.

For more:
- see this CNET article
- see this Network World article

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