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

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:40:38 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

Interesting to consider this story in tandem with Cisco's small-cell/Wi-Fi play.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:40:36 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

Incredible amount of redacted stuff in the filing too. What are we not being told? Makes it harder to trust the flat assertions of oh-poor-me spectrum shortage when they're surrounded by so much stuff that's been removed from the public eye.

steve q 12/5/2012 | 5:40:28 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

I see the wifi to help out with the data when the customer are in there home or office location. But they should also use the verizon fios network that can push more data out in area that the 4g is not in those area.Or with the move with verizon wireless and the cable company they could make they own way to save the about of data speed that is need to run a fast network

sam masud 12/5/2012 | 5:40:28 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

Do you think VZ is making "the sky is falling" argument regarding the spectrum issue to pressure the FCC?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:40:27 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

It's really hard to get a good grip on how much is real and how much is fear-mongering since so much of the real data is redacted. Doesn't seem beyond the bounds of possiblity that a data crunch is coming but its in Verizon's interest to make the situation seem as bad as possible, no?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:40:27 PM
re: Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall

re: data on the move


Personally I don't find that I spend a lot of time downloading data on the move unless we're talking GPS info.

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