MWC 2009: Verizon Picks LTE Vendors

Verizon calls on Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent for LTE

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

February 18, 2009

4 Min Read
MWC 2009: Verizon Picks LTE Vendors

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2009 -- Verizon Wireless has picked Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) as its two initial suppliers of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure equipment and is now plotting a fourth phase of trials before a commercial launch in 2010 of the proto-4G wireless broadband service.

The vendors
Verizon picked its top two from three initial trials that ran in total for roughly a year -- with its part-owner Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) -- of LTE equipment from a total of six vendors: Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Nokia Networks . (See Verizon to Name LTE Vendors at MWC.)

Verizon CTO Dick Lynch told Unstrung that the operator picked the final two because they offered good pricing and terms and could hang with Verizon's tough LTE deadline for a 2010 rollout. "These particular two vendors gave us the confidence that they could be ready by our very early date," he explained in an interview here on Wednesday afternoon.


"On one level, it may surprise people," Lynch said of vendor choices. On a second level, "with reflection," Lynch added, people may understand why Verizon has made these moves.

In addition to the LTE contracts, Verizon Wireless has selected Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) as a packet core vendor and says that Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent will be key suppliers for its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network.

The markets
The next phase of trials will be the first on the 700 MHz spectrum that Verizon won at auction last year. Lynch says Verizon will start the tests in two unnamed markets and these will become its first actual deployments.

"We have technical facilities near those locations... We may do more [markets] if I get optimistic."

Verizon and Vodafone have so far been field testing LTE networks in Minneapolis, Columbus, and Northern New Jersey in the United States, as well as in Budapest, Düsseldorf, and Madrid in Europe.

Nonetheless, the as-yet unnamed areas will be the first real LTE markets for Verizon "By the end of the year these two markets will be up."

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The deployment
That doesn't mean that Verizon will go commercial with the service straight away in 2010. The firm will be looking for friendly customers to test the network first and then plans to roll out in some more areas.

"We will launch in 2010 as soon as we feel we have a large enough footprint," Lynch said.

He added that Verizon is definitely not keen to take the piecemeal path that Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) is taking with its WiMax launches in Baltimore and Portland. "Our view of that is that customers don't like that, they find it disappointing." (See Analyst: Clearwire Will Launch Nine in '09.)

Even Verizon, however, can't blanket the whole U.S. with LTE in a year. "Obviously, you can't cover a country this size in that time," Lynch said, noting that roaming between LTE and EV-DO will be necessary.

Lynch won't predict yet exactly how many people Verizon will cover with LTE by the end of 2010. He is hoping, however, that it will be similar to Verizon's 3G EV-DO deployment in scope by then.5099.jpgThe numbers
Such a rollout will obviously cost billions of dollars, but Verizon is hoping to keep it within existing budget levels. "We know that the pricing of the LTE infrastructure will be such that will be able to stay within current budget levels."

Verizon's total capital spend for 2008 was "a little over $17 billion," according to Lynch.

The company isn't yet making any predictions on what speed downloads the network will offer. Using existing spectrum, however, the field tests have demonstrated download rates of 50 to 60 Mbit/s at peak speeds.

The devices
Initial devices to be offered on the LTE network will be data cards, followed by PDAs and the like. Lynch says it's "important" to have dualmode devices that can support LTE and EV-DO "out early."

He gets a lot more enthused, however, at the future prospects for "non-traditional" LTE devices. "In the future, all consumer electronics, all automobiles, will have LTE -- consumers will just expect it," he tells Unstrung.

This is why Verion is openng an LTE "innovation center" in Waltham, Mass., next week. Lynch says his company can take what it has learnt with its open network program and apply that to LTE. (See Verizon Wireless: Rise of the Machines.)

"Cameras are my favorite example. I take a lot of photographs." He explains that he is looking forward to the day when a camera comes with LTE onboard so that photos can be broadcast back to a home computer before the memory card is full.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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