Verizon to start refarming PCS spectrum for LTE in 2015

With its LTE network complete and handling more than 57 percent of its data traffic, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said that it expects to be able to refarm some of its PCS spectrum for LTE in 2015.

During a media briefing on the company's LTE network status, Nicola Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon Wireless, said that Verizon's LTE network is substantially complete with coverage in more than 500 markets and 298 million POPs nationwide. However, she added that demand for LTE continues to soar and Verizon anticipates that LTE traffic will grow at a rate of 6x to 7x in the next few years.

At the same time, Verizon expects demand for its 3G network to decrease to about one-half of peak demand by 2015, giving the company the option of refarming some of that spectrum for LTE. However, first Verizon will deploy LTE in its AWS spectrum. That will occur in the second half of the year and will provide the company with additional LTE capacity.

Palmer also said that the company will begin deploying LTE small cells at the end of the year and will use them to address capacity demands. However, she emphasized that small cells are just one tool in the toolkit and that the company will also continue to add capacity and density to the network by using other techniques such as cell splitting and indoor and outdoor distributed antenna systems. In May, Verizon announced that it will use LTE small cells from vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) starting in the second half of this year.

Palmer reiterated that the company will deploy VoLTE in early 2014 and said that when the company launches VoLTE, it will "go big with it," hinting that the launch will be nationwide and will include additional services such as HD Voice, RCS chat and more. "We are testing it in our lab and on the commercial network," Palmer said." I've tested it myself and the quality is quite remarkable."

She said that one reason the company is taking its time to launch VoLTE (Verizon initially hinted it would launch the technology in late 2012) is that it is building quality of service (QOS) into the network to ensure that voice calls will have the highest priority.

Look for Verizon to also be aggressive with LTE Advanced. According to Palmer, the company will deploy LTE Advanced features such as carrier aggregation strategically where it needs it. She declined to give a timeframe for deploying LTE Advanced but said that Verizon is aggressively looking at carrier aggregation for its 700 MHz and AWS spectrum.

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