Light Reading

Verizon Beefs Up LTE Network, Nears VoLTE

Sarah Thomas
10/17/2013
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Coming off a solid quarter in which it added 1.1 million customers, Verizon Wireless is turning its attention toward augmenting its 4G LTE network as well as launching its first voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) handset in the fourth quarter.

Speaking on the carrier's third-quarter earnings call, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CFO Fran Shammo played down the speeds of LTE, noting that those only matter when the network is unloaded, instead choosing to talk up what Verizon Wireless is doing to bolster its network in major urban markets like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

This work has already started in NYC where the carrier is upgrading its LTE network to 2x20 Mhz channels. (See: Verizon Deploying Fatter 4G Pipes in NYC.)

"We're building the network for a consistent, reliable experience," he said. "Our network engineers designed the network for when it's fully loaded."

With 38 percent of its customers on the 4G network generating 64 percent of data usage, Shammo said it's getting to that point. Right now Verizon's main focus is on deploying its AWS spectrum, but it also plans to reappropriate its 3G spectrum for LTE. Shammo said Verizon's spectrum position is solid for three to four years, but it plans to get in on future auctions as well.

In addition, the CFO said Verizon is being proactive on in-building coverage and densification of cell sites. The work started in the third quarter, he said, but begins in earnest in the fourth.

With 500 markets covered with LTE reaching 97 percent of the US population, or 303 million people, Verizon is now 99 percent done matching its 3G network footprint. Coverage was the key for it to launch VoLTE. Shammo reiterated that Verizon wouldn't start offering 4G voice until it was very similar to what its customers expect from a 3G CDMA call. "It's an unbelievable network," he said of Verizon 3G, and that's why it's taking so long on VoLTE.

"You'll probably see us have a VoLTE capable handset in the fourth quarter and will light up the VoLTE rollout in the first half of next year," Shammo said, echoing the timeline the operator has stated several times in the past. (See: Verizon Preps Network, Waits on Marketing Nod for VoLTE, Verizon Promises Voice-Over-LTE in 2014, and Shades of VoLTE.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
10/23/2013 | 10:20:33 AM
Re: VoLTE
Hoping to talk to Verizon this week about LTE networking so I'll ask about the maps. It's not even clear to me that any of the carriers totally follow the FCC coverage maps anymore anyway, can't get a straight answer on that at all.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
10/23/2013 | 10:18:55 AM
Re: VoLTE
That's something I can ask Qualcomm about soon.
davidhoffman
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davidhoffman,
User Rank: Light Beer
10/23/2013 | 1:54:47 AM
VoLTE
Verizon's voice and EVDO maps overstate coverage outdoors. So they are matching 99% of the incorrect maps they had before. Brilliant short term thinking. It is long past time for Verizon's management to get tough with the coverage map makers and get the maps to be far more accurate and precise.  Bad data helps to create delusionary thinking by management that the company is doing more than it really is, and alienates cutomers who try to use devices in areas that should have been marked as no service. A case in point, Peebles Drive in Forsyth GA has no signal from Maynard's Mill Road to the end of the dead end street that is Peebles Drive. Verizon's coverage map would have you believe that it is fully covered by voice and data outdoors. It is not coverd at all. 
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/21/2013 | 4:01:31 AM
Re: VoLTE
Agreed Anil on the importance of handsets. As well as the factors you mention there's a major role for the handset OS to play. MNOs have an influence on this, but fundamentally it's out of their hands.
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/21/2013 | 3:58:32 AM
Re: VoLTE
The point about handset CPU load is a good one. This basically means VoLTE needs to be (at least partially) embedded in the chipset.
AnilBhan
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AnilBhan,
User Rank: Light Beer
10/21/2013 | 2:00:08 AM
VoLTE
Before laucnhing VoLTE services any carrier has to ensure that quality is consistent with that being provided today. Compared to other data services, customer expectations from voice services are very high. Voice as an application imposes very unique requirements on the network - it requires low bandwidth, can tolerate higher bit error rates but is highly delay sensitive. For the interactive services such as video streaming, any network glitches due to poor SINR get masked by other means such as buffering however the same is not possible with VoLTE. All in all I suppose that the LTE networks rolled out by carriers are first step towards supporting voice and require various voice specific optimizations to ensure consistent minimal SINR throughout the network even under loaded conditions.

Added to this there are specific requirements on the handset side as well relating to support for semi-persistent scheduling which means that not all LTE handsets in the market today would support VoLTE. The carriers have to device a suitable migration strategy for subscribers with such 3G devices.
pzernik
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pzernik,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/18/2013 | 8:16:59 AM
Re: VoLTE
A big problem with VoLTE will be that that the technology does not have a way to push voice calls to 3G (CDMA) voice when capacity crosses some threshold level (based on CPU or simultaneous calls).  Verizon and other 3GPP2/3GPP carriers must be able to alter subscribers profiles- to allow or not allow VoLTE- in the HSS based on network loading. 
RitchBlasi
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RitchBlasi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/17/2013 | 2:46:42 PM
VoLTE
$$$$ is always motivational.  :-)
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
10/17/2013 | 2:33:09 PM
Re: VoLTE
Rich


I'm certain that VoLTE is going to cause US carriers a LOT of headaches to implement. But there is an eventual profit and spectrum motive that benefits them if they get it working, they can start to use 3G spectrum for M2M or 4G and not circuit switched voice. I don't doubt that its going to be hard but $$$ is obviously a motivator in this.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/17/2013 | 1:54:46 PM
Re: VoLTE
Hey, your skeptcism is totally fair, and shared by many. Sounds like even Verizon and AT&T might even share it since they use qualifiers like hopefully and probably. Even when it's network ready, it'll be a marketing decision. Verizon has confirmed that in the past.

And, for the record, I WAS in high school in 2001, but i didn't have a cell phone yet. :)
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