VOIP services

Verizon Completes LTE Rollout, Turns to VoLTE

Having covered its 500th U.S. market with 4G, Verizon Wireless says its LTE rollout is complete, allowing it to turn its attention to the not inconsiderable task of adding voice capabilities to the 4G network.

Verizon LTE now covers 298 million people across the U.S., reaching 99 percent of its 3G footprint, the carrier announced Thursday. Achieving parity with its 3G footprint was the main condition for Verizon to bring voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) phones to market. With that complete, it can turn its attention to making 4G voice a reality.

Don't expect VoLTE-only phones anytime soon, however. Jim Wales, Verizon's executive director of network and technology, told Light Reading at CTIA that it would introduce its first single-mode LTE smartphone at the end of 2014. (See CTIA: Verizon Pushes for Single-Mode LTE.)

Verizon Wireless Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer reiterated that timetable during a press briefing Thursday, but noted that the VoLTE rollout may happen a bit later than anticipated. Verizon hasn't been as eager as its competitors to nail down a date, but Palmer said it would commercially launch in early 2014 with a more widespread rollout and not a series of market-by-market launches, which is how many of its new services are introduced. (See Verizon Promises Voice-Over-LTE in 2014.)

Verizon says its LTE network is handling 57 percent of its total data traffic. When VoLTE launches, it will be treated as just another data source running on the all-IP network. But it's critical that the operator gets it right first time, as it can't support circuit-switched fallback to its CDMA network, a method that would enable call continuation if a customer lost its 4G voice connection.

Completing its LTE build out, which now covers 95 percent of the U.S. population spanning 49 states, puts it on the right path. Palmer also said during the briefing that Verizon would begin deploying small cells at the end of 2013, will start using its AWS spectrum during the second half of 2014, begin refarming its PCS spectrum for LTE in 2015 and plans to lead the U.S. market on LTE-Advanced, starting with carrier aggregation.

"Let me be clear -- we will lead with LTE-Advanced, just as we have led with the deployment of 4G LTE networks," Palmer said, according to Laptop Mag.

Earlier this week, Dave Mayo, T-Mobile USA's senior vice president of technology, strategy, finance and development, noted his company was set to introduce "LTE-Advanced features" later this year. (See T-Mobile to Debut LTE-A 'Features' in 2013.) — Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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