Verizon Begins 3G Refarming to Add LTE Capacity

Verizon is starting to refarm its PCS spectrum for LTE, but it will be a slow, gradual death for its 2G and 3G networks.

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

December 4, 2014

2 Min Read
Verizon Begins 3G Refarming to Add LTE Capacity

Verizon appears to have started the process of reallocating some of its 3G spectrum to its 4G network, a process known as refarming, with evidence of fresh 4G services in New York and Cleveland.

Mobile enthusiast Milan Milanovic, who owns an industrial spectrum analyzer and several smartphones, tells GigaOm he's connected to a new Verizon Wireless LTE network on his Nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 based on PCS 1900MHz/1990MHz spectrum, which has to date been used for the carrier's 3G EVDO services.

A member of S4GRU, a blog that typically tracks Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s LTE progress, has also reported seeing Verizon LTE showing up in the PCS band in Cleveland.

Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer said last year that it would begin to refarm some of its PCS spectrum for other uses in 2015, but it appears to have gotten an early start -- at least with the 3G bands. Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis confirmed to GigaOm that the operator is testing LTE on the PCS band, but gave no specifics for a commercial launch. (See Verizon's 5 Step LTE Program.)

For more on LTE, head over to the 4G/LTE content page on Light Reading.

Neither Verizon's 2G nor 3G network will be going away entirely anytime soon, but the carrier has made a number of significant steps to make sure it's ready to begin the refarming process. It has just recently deployed voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) nationwide, but still has a ways to go to migrate its customers away from 2G voice. And while 80% of its data traffic is on 3G, many of its devices -- including machine-to-machine (M2M) connections -- still don't support LTE, much less VoLTE. (See Verizon to Launch HD VoLTE in 'Coming Weeks' and Verizon Beefing Up Network for VoLTE, Multicast Video.)

The carrier just started seeding the market with LTE-only devices this year. Verizon Executive Director of Network and Technology Jim Wales said in May 2013 that the company would support 3G "through the end of the decade" -- so expect a long, slow death for 3G, and an even slower demise for 2G. (See CTIA: Verizon Pushes for Single-Mode LTE.)

In the meantime, Verizon is continuing to bolster its existing LTE network: Earlier this week, it announced plans for dual-band LTE small cells using technology from SpiderCloud Wireless . (See Verizon Taps SpiderCloud for Dual-Band 4G Small Cells.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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