Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

Big Red says it needs cable's AWS capacity to help it avoid a spectrum strain in some 4G markets by 2013, and many others by 2015

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

March 5, 2012

2 Min Read
Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

Verizon Wireless claims that "skyrocketing" data demand could cause it to run short of spectrum for its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service in some markets by 2013, with many more "constrained" by 2015.

Verizon made the claims in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing defending its proposed acquisition of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum (1700MHz/2100MHz) from Cox Communications Inc. , Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks for a combined $3.9 billion. (See MSOs Sell AWS Spectrum to Verizon for $3.6B , VZ Wireless Nabs Cox's AWS Spectrum for $315M , DoJ Sniffs Around VZ Wireless-Cable Deals , Sparks Start to Fly in VZ Wireless-MSO Deal and Battle Lines Form in VZ Wireless-MSO Deals.)The company currently offers a faster Long Term Evolution (LTE) data service in the 700MHz C-Band. The company will "soon begin deploying its existing AWS spectrum holdings into the 4G LTE network as well," according to the filing. The filing cites data from Bill Stone, Verizon's executive director of network strategy, illustrating "skyrocketing demand will overtake the company's 4G LTE capacity" and could thus "degrade service" in some areas "as early as 2013" and "in many others by 2015."

"By the end of 2015, growth in data traffic is projected to create a spectrum capacity shortfall that extends well beyond the more densely populated urban core," the operator later states in the document. Maps in the filing showing pressure points are redacted, but the references to "urban core" markets suggest that big cities could be hit first. Services would likely be slowed from the 5Mbit/s to 12Mbit/s average download speeds Verizon currently promises.

Verizon says this crunch is coming because data growth is so much higher than predicted with video, audio and Web surfing all chewing through capacity. "For example, actual fourth quarter 2011 data traffic was double Verizon Wireless' 2009 forecast for that quarter," the filing states. "And Verizon Wireless has now revised the fourth quarter 2015 forecast upward by approximately 700 percent."

Verizon is by no means the only operator that is facing a spectrum crunch. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has said it will be able to deploy LTE on 1900MHz through 2014, but will then be re-farming frequencies and looking for bandwidth. (See Sprint to Launch LTE by Mid-2012.)

T-Mobile US Inc. has just unveiled its initial LTE strategy on AWS spectrum that it got from the breakup of the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) merger. (See T-Mobile Execs Plan LTE-Powered Revival .)

Ma Bell, meanwhile, is trying to move users off 2G spectrum in favor of newer services, according to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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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