On the Hot Seat with Verizon's Dick Lynch
During his first-ever keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Verizon Communications' executive vice president and CTO Dick Lynch announced the primary vendors that the company would be using to deploy LTE. Lynch talked with FierceWireless editor in chief Sue Marek about Verizon's LTE vendor selection, the company's aggressive deployment schedule and how the DTV transition delay will impact Verizon's LTE launch.
FierceWireless: It's no secret that the wireless infrastructure vendors are struggling right now. Over the past few months many of these companies have had major cutbacks and staff layoffs. Many were banking on getting a piece of Verizon's LTE contract. Why did you select these particular vendors?
Lynch: We selected Ericsson and Alcatel Lucent to provide the radio access network because they have done very good job of proving to us that they can achieve our expectations of performance and delivery date. We have worked well with them.
Every one of the vendors whose equipment we tested performed well. It was a difficult selection process for me. Even of the ones that we didn't select were competent and qualified to deliver. There is an opportunity for the vendor community to see another wave of investment from us.
I'm not naïve. I know that the announcement I made is going to have an impact on the infrastructure supplier community. The two vendors I selected aren't the only two that could have done the job. There is the opportunity for the entire infrastructure community to rally around this thing. Other carriers may choose someone else.
This can add to the health of the supplier community. We are not saying Ericsson and Alcatel Lucent, you won and the rest go away. Ericsson and Alcatel Lucent have won our business for a period of time. The rest of the vendors will have another opportunity in the future. We will go out again in mid-2010 and look for vendors for the next wave of the coverage.
FierceWireless: How are the LTE tests progressing?
Lynch: LTE testing has gone extremely well. The bottom line is it really is living up to expectations in terms of potential performance. We're very pleased with it. The second thing is that the development of the standard is moving along slowly and deliberately. But I think that the vendors we have been testing with have been very flexible and willing to grab the standards as we know they are coming out the door. So what we are testing is really as close to commercial live infrastructure as is possible at this point.
FierceWireless: I know that you have a very aggressive deployment schedule. Are you confident that the vendors you have selected can meet your deployment schedule?
Lynch: It is an aggressive schedule and the vendors know that. Vendors that we selected and that we didn't select have really stood up to the challenge that we have given them. We have had working systems in operation for a few months. I am confident that while it's aggressive and I won't say that there won't be a few bumps in the road along the way. I am comfortable that LTE has essentially been primed for a good launch in 2010.
FierceWireless: You say you will launch in 2010 but don't you plan to have some deployment in 2009?
Lynch. Yes, let me explain that so there is no misunderstanding. Let me walk you through the process. We have been doing vendor testing directly with the vendors for the better part of a year now. We have had multiple phases of the process. We have had six vendors out there in six places around the world doing testing with us. We teamed with Vodafone and been using their resources and knowledge of what is going on as well. At the end of last quarter, we concluded sufficient testing and seen enough vendors to go into our final phase of testing. That final phase will begin in the next few months.
We will build out systems in 700 MHz spectrum in markets where we will intend to launch. We will go into pro-commercial mode on the systems some time after Labor Day. By the end of the year we will be able to demonstrate to customers and people like yourself the performance of the networks.
So when I say launch in 2010, I'm not talking about the end of year but I'm talking about a sizable footprint. I don't want to launch a couple of markets. When we launch we will do what we did with 1xEV-DO and 1XRTT, we will launch a good size footprint.
I can demonstrate a commercial system this year. I can show you a footprint of respectable magnitude in 2010.
FierceWireless: You will have to have your LTE devices be backwards compatible to 1xEVDO. Some people in the industry believe that will be an extra challenge for Verizon. Is that true?
Lynch: There are people around the world that are hoping that's the case. I don't think there is any hiding that fact. The vendors that you would think to would be pleased to see us struggle along, have been working diligently with us to try to deliver that product. At the same time we have been doing infrastructure work, we have also been doing device side work.
With a couple of notable exceptions, most of the LTE/EVDO interoperability requirements are placed on the handset, not really on the network. There are a couple of network things that need to be done and we are well along with those. All vendors that have been working with us have shown us their solutions and they are standards-based solutions so we will settle on one of them.
The devices, they remain a long pole in the tent. However, when you think about it the first devices we put out there are not going to be size restricted. What I mean is a PCMCIA size form factor is not a challenge to put out there even if we have to do it with less than final sophisticated geometry. I am comfortable that while there are challenges to doing it, we have the solutions and we know how to work them. And we have vendors that are ready to build them. In fact we are negotiating schedules with those vendors.
FierceWireless: So initially you see LTE as a laptop play?
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