Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CES Keynote: Verizon Sees LTE Accelerate Development Cycle

LTE is turning out to be a real game-changer for the networking industry because it speeds up the development cycle, said Verizon executives Ivan Seidenberg and Lowell McAdam in a keynote at CES in Las Vegas. The Verizon booth has over 60 companies demonstrating products and services that are coming to the company's network this year, and over 6,000 developers are enrolled in its program. Sharing the keynote spotlight were TimeWarner, Motorola Mobility and Google -- each of which sees opportunity for 4G-connected media tablets.

Verizon's CTO, Tony Malone, is very pleased with the recent launch of the LTE network. There have been few bumps in the rollout and the network performance is exceeding expectations, including the targeted 5-12 Mbs downlink rates , 30ms of latency, and edge-of-the cell performance of 1-3 Mbps. Customers are confirming this too. Malone credited Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, the principal suppliers, for the smooth deployment in the first 38 markets. During 2011, the rollout will expand to dozens of new market, and 36 months from the now, the nation will be covered with LTE.

Building on a partnership announced last year, Verizon Wireless confirmed that the Skype mobile application will be bundled and supported on its LTE devices, enabling video and audio calling to Skype users worldwide. The device integration will include Skype presence indicators inside the smartphone contact list. The Skype mobile applications will "always-on" in the background of these devices.

Verizon Wireless showcased a portfolio of new LTE devices that are coming in the first half of 2011 (some are expected by March):

LG - will be offering the "Revolution" LTE smartphone.

HTC - the company's first LTE-enabled smartphones is called "ThunderBolt". It integrates Skype's video calling over LTE. It also offers a hotspot capability for sharing connecting with 8 other Wi-Fi devices. Qualcomm is a partner on the ThunderBolt.

Electronic Arts -- the company is developing mobile games that are better over the LTE network. An example is RockBand, which lets 4 friends to play in a virtual band from anywhere on the network.

Samsung -- the company is introducing LTE-enabled mobile hotspots, smartphones, and the 7-inch Galaxy tablet.

Novatel Wireless - MiFi mobile hotspots and USB modems

Motorola -- earlier this week, the company joint introduced the Droid Bionic 4G smartphones and the Xoom tablet, which will also be LTE enabled.

In addition, Verizon Wireless said its rural initiative is drawing considerable interest from regional spectrum holders. Two more rural partners were signed this week.

Some Q&A's from the press conference --

On battery life for LTE -- Silicon suppliers have worked hard on power optimization techniques and these are being implemented in LTE devices.

On Roaming and 3G fallback -- LTE devices for the Verizon Wireless network will be able to roam internationally and will be able to fall back on 3GPP networks.

On pricing models for 4G -- No pricing was announced for the LTE devices being shown, and no new LTE services were announced. The company has already announced LTE plans for USB wireless modems.

Are the Verizon LTE devices spectrum locked? Could they be used on other carrier networks?-- The SIM card will dictate access to the network.

Are VZ's regulatory Open Access requirements for the 700MHz being met? Yes.

Will simultaneous voice/data be supported? -- Some devices will support this. The capability could be on some devices but not all.

Will there be data caps on the smartphones? -- Pricing structures will be similar to what is available now. VZ will look at new pricing models. Caps may make sense at some point in time.

Will in-building penetration be better than competitors? -- VZ's 700 MHz spectrum has a 3x or 4x distance propagation advantage over 2.5 GHz mobile services.

Are all of the devices being shown from HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung all based on Android? -- Yes.

On Net Neutrality over LTE -- VZ has been very specific about the openness of the network. VZ thins that for innovation to happen, an unfettered development environment is the best and that the free market system works best.

On Tethering for LTE smartphones -- Some of the LTE devices being shown offer mobile hotspot capability, but the company has no comment on tethering at the moment.