AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless don't agree on many things in the wireless market, but executives from both carriers were able to concur on one thing at least: LTE is superior to mobile WiMAX.
Kris Rinne, AT&T's senior vice president of architecture and planning, and Tom Sawanobori, Verizon's vice president for network strategy, each touted their companies' respective LTE plans and commitments during a webcast Thursday sponsored by the GSMA trade group. The two execs also lauded their LTE advantages over Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network.
Clearwire contends its spectrum position--which stretches to 150 MHz in some markets--gives it the leadership position in wireless, but AT&T's Rinne says that AT&T can expand its LTE offering into more spectrum bands. Both Verizon and AT&T are deploying LTE in the 700 MHz band, but Rinne said AT&T could eventually push LTE into its exisiting 850 MHz and 1900 MHZ spectrum. "We will have the opportunity [to grow spectrum for] LTE in future years, both the quality and range of it," she said. "You need to make sure you count all of our spectrum when you make these comparisons."
Sawanobori said Verizon's 700 MHz spectrum has better propagation characteristics and requires fewer cell towers than Clearwire's airwaves, which primarily sit in the 2.5 GHz range.
Verizon plans to deploy LTE in 25-30 commercial markets this year, covering 100 million POPs. AT&T will begin LTE trials this year, with wider deployments scheduled for 2011. Clearwire has said it aims to launch 80 commercial mobile WIMAX markets by year-end, covering 120 million POPs.
The Verizon and AT&T executives also touched on two hot LTE topics: how to provide voice over the IP service, and whether LTE will spark a move to usage-based pricing. Sawanobori said Verizon hopes to have voice over LTE running in either 2011 or 2012, and AT&T said it will do so in 2012. Neither Verizon or AT&T openly committed to employing usage-based pricing for LTE--thereby reversing their current flat-rate data pricing--though Sawanobori said Verizon's effort will "probably be usage based."
Metered, tiered pricing for LTE appears to be a major discussion topic inside Verizon and AT&T. Executives from both carriers have in the past discussed the possibility of moving to the pricing scenario--possibly as a way to ease data traffic congestion while boosting data revenues--though neither has made a firm commitment on the topic.
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