Verizon rolled out a major update to its 4G network Monday, launching LTE-Advanced across 461 cities in the US, which could mean data downloads up to 50% faster for customers with compatible smartphones.
Verizon describes the launch as covering cities coast to coast, blanketing over 90% of the US population. The map below shows Verizon's 4G LTE coverage in red and the cities freshly minted with LTE-Advanced in white.
So what is LTE-Advanced? The update to 4G was first solidified in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's Release 10 of the LTE specification on April 11. It uses bonded disparate radio channels -- a.k.a. carrier aggregation -- and at least 2x2 antenna arrays (MIMO) to get more speed out of the network. (See Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)
Verizon shows its 4G network topping out at 30 Mbit/s, while LTE-Advanced races to over 100 Mbit/s on downloads in the video below. As wireless is a shared medium and is influenced by factors like proximity to the cellsite, results may vary widely!
Verizon says it is using a mixture of two-channel and three-channel carrier aggregation on its network. In theory, two-band aggregation could deliver peak speeds of over 200 Mbit/s.
Verizon says that LTE-Advanced will work with 39 phones and tablets on day one, although customers may need to upgrade to the latest software to get the speed bump. Devices include the latest iPhone, the Galaxy S7 and Note 7 and the Moto Droid.
Verizon's LTE-Advanced announcement somewhat deflects attention from Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 3-band carrier aggregation (3CA) demo in Chicago on Monday (more on that later!). Although, in point of fact, all the major operators in the US are looking to deploy 2CA, 3CA and denser MIMO in their LTE networks. This is because -- despite the interest in 5G -- 4G LTE and subsequent upgrades will remain the fastest way to go mobile for the immediate future. (See Verizon Updates 5G Spec, Could Launch Ahead of 3GPP, Ericsson's 'Gigabit LTE' Will Benefit Current Smartphone Users Too, Sprint Plots Ramped-Up LTE and T-Mobile's Unlimited Plans Aim at the Big Two.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading