Optical/IP Networks

AT&T, Verizon Plot Faster Futures

The two major mobile carriers in the U.S. -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless -- are firming up schedules for faster wireless broadband services into the next decade but are not specifying launch dates or saying which vendors might win much-needed contracts.

As expected, Verizon is going to stick with its ambitious rollout timetable for proto-4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology. (See Gearing Up for LTE.) "We expect that LTE will actually be in service somewhere here in the U.S. probably this time next year," Dick Lynch, CTO of Verizon Communications was quoted as saying at the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) C-Scape conference in San Jose, Calif., this week.

Some industry watchers have been predicting a 2010 launch for Verizon's LTE with more markets activated in 2011. But a late 2009 date, with fuller deployments in 2010, would match what Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone told Unstrung in April. (See AT&T & Verizon to Use 700 MHz for 4G .)

Here's Melone, captured on video at April's CTIA show:

The aggressive timescale would put Verizon at the forefront of worldwide LTE deployments, along with China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) and T-Mobile International AG . The proto-4G standard is expected to be ratified this month. (See LTE: The Big Freeze.)

AT&T, meanwhile, is continuing to say that its 3G network has the headroom, through software upgrades, to keep pace with Verizon's plans and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s WiMax venture. The operator intends to deploy LTE in 2012. (See 4G Backhaul: A Problem for All?)

"We have been aggressively deploying UMTS in our infrastructure and migrating it to HSDPA," said AT&T operations chief John Stankey at a UBS conference in New York yesterday. "What is important to understand is that over the next two years and in the next three years, we have a very defined and very clean technology path to improving the performance of our wireless data services and the speeds and the capabilities of this network. "This is a capability that we will be able to deploy largely by doing software upgrades in the network and augmenting backhaul, as opposed to doing a fundamental transition of an entire air interface such as the change from EV-DO to LTE," Stankey continued, referring to rival Verizon's plan. The move to HSDPA will be enough to nearly double average speeds and quadruple peak rates, he contends.

Some international carriers are already further down this path than AT&T. Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) already has 7.2 Mbit/s HSPA service in some parts of the U.K., while Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) wants to ramp data rates up to 21 Mbit/s using the technology. AT&T is currently offering something in the region of 1 Mbit/s download speeds on HSDPA. (See AT&T's 3G Overhaul, Faster 3G and Ericsson,Telstra Achieve First.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Michael Rubin 12/5/2012 | 3:24:38 PM
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