published Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Verizon ready to roll out 4G service

Verizon says its new 4G mobile network is more than a marketing gimmick.

It’s not just an upgraded or a rebranded 3G network; it’s a whole new technology that takes advantage of the company’s long-range 700MHz band. And it’s coming to Chattanooga within the next three months, Verizon’s Karen Schulz said.

Chattanooga will be among the next round of American markets to get the technology, after the carrier previously rolled out its LTE network in 38 major cities in 2010.

“It’s just a different technology altogether,” Schulz said Tuesday.

With Verizon’s new network, wireless subscribers will be able simultaneously to access voice and data and can transfer SIM cards from phone to phone, features that Verizon hasn’t previously offered.

Verizon bought $4.7 billion worth of 700MHz spectrum in a Federal Communication Commission auction in 2008 that it will use for the network.

Users will have to buy one of 10 LTE-enabled phones, tablets or laptops to use Verizon’s wireless superhighway, but they’ll see real, tangible benefits, Verizon claims.

Tests show that speeds in Chattanooga could jump from as high as 1.2 megabits per second up to 12 megabits per second, a tenfold increase, though customers will have to pay a $50 monthly fee for a plan with a five-gigabyte data limit.

The LTE technology used by Verizon and others leapfrogs the HSPA+ architecture being touted by other carriers, which some tech bloggers derisively call 3.5G, Schulz said.

Workers are in the process of upgrading Verizon’s base stations in Chattanooga and replacing aging T1 lines with fiber-optic cable in preparation for the launch, she said, though the company won’t release either the launch date or 2010 sales figures.

The ultimate goal is for every device, from the washing machine to the fridge, to communicate wirelessly with users and for sales and service workers to carry a mobile office with them in the form of a high-powered tablet, she said.

Competitors T-Mobile and AT&T have also indicated that they will pursue LTE technology, though both currently offer 4G speeds primarily through older HSPA+ technology, which is based on 3G.

AT&T is deploying 4G on a cell-by-cell basis, company spokeswoman Cathy Lewandowski said. Two-thirds of AT&T’s total traffic will be carried through 4G by the end of 2011. However, there is no word on when it will be fully implemented in Chattanooga.

T-Mobile will not launch LTE anywhere for several years, preferring to wait until the technology is more firmly established, according to Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann.

Sprint’s competing WiMAX 4G technology is available in Nashville. But spokeswoman Lisa Zimmerman-Mott wouldn’t comment on potential future market launches.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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