While 5G tends to dominate the headlines these days, there’s still a lot of gas left in the LTE tank, and Verizon is demonstrating just that with the deployment of LTE Advanced technologies.
The operator announced that customers in more than 2,000 markets can access the benefits of carrier aggregation (CA) and those in 1,100 markets can access 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM in addition to CA. Combined, the three technologies can significantly boost the available capacity and speed.
“Our customers experience the largest LTE coverage in the country, unrivaled service reliability and the most consistently fast speeds in the industry,” said Nicola Palmer, chief network engineering officer and head of Wireless Networks, in a prepared statement. “We’ve done this through customer-focused planning, disciplined engineering, and consistent, strategic investment, continuing to deploy LTE Advanced technologies.”
To be sure, other carriers are deploying LTE-Advanced features as well. AT&T is upgrading cell towers with 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO and 3-way carrier aggregation—technologies that it says serve as the 5G network foundation in its “5G Evolution” markets.
T-Mobile has been rolling out LTE Advanced technologies since 2014 and claimed it was first globally with 4X4 MIMO and first in the U.S. with 256 QAM. And Sprint, which still has a ways to go on deploying LTE, has talked about how Massive MIMO is acting like a bridge to 5G. (The Sprint 4G LTE network covers about 302 million POPs, according to Sprint (PDF), compared to about 322 million POPs for Verizon).
Verizon’s Palmer has previously discussed how the operator conducted a lot of trials and research on millimeter wave spectrum and made some pleasing discoveries about its propagation, but she reiterated that 4G isn’t going away anytime soon.
For that matter, the Non-Standalone (NSA) version of 5G New Radio (5G NR) standard for 5G that was ratified by 3GPP in December 2017 uses the existing LTE radio and core network as an anchor.
Last year, Verizon chronicled how it was able to reach a milestone with Ericsson by completing the deployment of FDD Massive MIMO on Verizon’s wireless network in Irvine, California. That involved 16 transceiver radio units and an array of 96 antenna elements. The higher number of transmitters enables more possible signal paths; beamforming is also used to direct the beam from the cell site directly to where the customer is located, thereby cutting down on interference.
The operator claimed another industry first with Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Federated Wireless last year when they conducted a demo using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band 48 spectrum and LTE Advanced CA. That demo, set in an Ericsson lab in Plano, Texas, included the end-to-end CBRS communication flow using 2x20 MHz LTE carriers and a 256 QAM modulation in the downlink.