Verizon's Samsung Galaxy S4 to access LTE on AWS spectrum

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) plans to issue a software update to several of its devices, including Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4, that will allow the gadgets to access its LTE network running on the carrier's AWS spectrum, said a Verizon executive.

Verizon's Galaxy S4

Mike Haberman, Verizon Wireless' vice president of network support, told Bloomberg that the S4 for Verizon already has AWS support built in, something noted earlier by technology blogs, and that a software patch will let it take advantage of the radio waves. Haberman did not say when the software update will be available.

Verizon has six other LTE devices with AWS-capability that it is selling today, including two Samsung 10-inch tablets, two "jetpack" mobile hotspots a USB modem, the Galaxy S4 and the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 928. Those devices will use the AWS band when it is activated later this year, and the forthcoming BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Q10, which launches soon, will also be AWS-capable. Most of Verizon's LTE devices going forward will be AWS-capable.

Verizon noted that its LTE network already covers more than 95 percent of the company's 3G network footprint, and the company now covers a total of 497 U.S. markets with LTE. The company expects to finish its initial LTE buildout by mid-year and then will start turning on LTE service in its AWS spectrum to augment its capacity, especially in dense urban markets. Verizon added to its existing AWS spectrum holdings with the purchase last year of $3.9 billion worth of AWS spectrum licenses from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications.

Haberman indicated that Verizon's AWS LTE service is scheduled to begin in major cities, including New York City, in the next few months. He said LTE traffic volume will be 6 to 7 times greater in three years than it is today, so the extra capacity is necessary. Verizon executives have said they will turn on AWS spectrum at 5,000 cell sites this year.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is another device that received approval from the FCC with support for not only Verizon's normal 700 MHz Upper C Block spectrum (Band 13) for LTE, but also 1700 MHz AWS spectrum (Band 4). Haberman noted that Verizon will be adding more devices that can use AWS spectrum for LTE.

Verizon's AWS launch is part of the carrier's efforts to refine its LTE network. A related action occurred last week when Verizon said it would use LTE small cell products from vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) starting in the second half of this year. Verizon said that small cells will be used to primarily enhance localized capacity and coverage, such as in a business district or shopping mall where there is a high amount of traffic. Verizon had previously said it would deploy 200 LTE small cells this year.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Engadget article
- see this The Verge article

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Article updated May 29 with additional information from Verizon about its AWS devices.