Verizon Wireless will double the number of its LTE markets to between 50 and 60 markets 15 months after in its initial launch, according to the carrier's CTO, Tony Melone. The carrier has repeatedly said it plans to launch 25 to 30 commercial LTE markets in the later part of this year and fill out its 3G footprint (which is currently deployed across 94 percent of Verizon's cell sites) with LTE by the end of 2013.
In an interview with Network World, Melone said Verizon is "going to be aggressive in our plan to get to critical mass." He also said that, as the company fills out its LTE network, it will bring the 4G service to places where it does not have 3G coverage today. Melone said Verizon is continuing to work with its infrastructure partners to make sure the launch happens on time. The executive's comments fit with what Verizon reported in its recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"We continue to conduct validation testing in conjunction with initial commercial deployments," the company said in the filing. "We expect that technology testing and assessments will continue as the LTE technology and standards are advanced."
Melone also touched on one of the main unresolved issues surrounding LTE: how and when voice will be delivered over the IP network. He said the technical capabilities for voice over LTE will be ready in 2011, but it remains unclear whether Verizon's footprint "will be sufficient at that point to provide customers with a good experience for voice over LTE, or whether we'll be better off offering 3G coverage for voice and 4G for data." The carrier has said that its LTE network will provide average data speeds of 5-12 Mbps for downloads and 2-5 Mbps for uploads.
During last week's Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, Verizon Communications CTO Richard Lynch told FierceWireless that the company is evaluating about eight to 10 LTE end-user devices, and though most of them are USB dongles, he said that there are a few handsets in the mix. Lynch said he expects to introduce LTE handsets more quickly than expected because of the quickening pace around the technology.
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