Verizon taps Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson for LTE small cells

LAS VEGAS--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said it will use LTE small cell products from vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) starting in the second half of this year.

In its most detailed account yet of how it plans to deploy cell technology as part of its LTE network, 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. In a statement, the carrier also said that small cells will also complement Distributed Antenna Systems.

Verizon had previously said it would deploy 200 LTE small cells this year, along with 5,000 LTE cell sites in its AWS spectrum this year. At an investor conference earlier this month Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said the company would be "picking up the pace next year" on the deployment of LTE small cells. Mead said that small cells will be a "complement to the core LTE infrastructure," though he acknowledged that providing backhaul and emergency power to small cells is difficult.

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.

The selection of Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson is not entirely surprising. The two companies are the primary radio access network (RAN) vendors for Verizon's LTE network.

"Small cells will play a role in the Verizon Wireless strategy to add capacity in high-traffic locations and provide the best customer experience possible on the nation's largest 4G LTE network," Mike Haberman, Verizon Wireless' vice president of network support, said in a statement.

Ericsson said it will be providing its micro RRUS (Remote Radio Unit) small cells for Verizon's network and that it is easily integrated into the overall network since it works with any baseband unit part of the RBS 6000 product line. Later this year, Ericsson will also provide micro RBS 6501 (Radio Base Station) for Verizon, which provides local-area and medium-range coverage in a heterogeneous network environment.

An Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman did not immediately have a comment on which of its small cell products Verizon would use.

Of course, Verizon is not the only carrier looking to small cells to help increase its network capacity. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), for example, has said it plans to deploy 40,000 small cells by 2015.

For more:
- see this Verizon post
- see this Ericsson release

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