The day when you can regularly receive and send high-definition video from your smartphone is closer, following Verizon Wireless' announcement Friday that it has completed its first successful field test of 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) data calls. The tests, using the 3GPP Release 8 standard, were conducted in Boston and Seattle, and the company said the calls involved file uploads and downloads, streaming video, and Web browsing.
Verizon also said it successfully made data calls using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) on the LTE 4G network.
A 'Super-Fast Broadband Experience'
The tests utilized the 700-MHz spectrum, for which Verizon bid and won the rights in the Federal Communications Commission's auction earlier this year.
The testing used base station/radio access network technology from Alcatel-Lucent for Boston and Ericsson for Seattle, LG and Samsung for handheld devices, and Starent Networks and Nokia Siemens Networks for the network equipment.
Tony Melone, senior vice president and chief technical officer at Verizon Wireless, said in a statement that the "state-of-the-art technology and prime spectrum will soon make a ubiquitous, highly mobile, super-fast broadband experience a reality for customers."
The company said it expects to launch the LTE 4G networks in up to 30 markets next year, with coverage for about 100 million customers. By 2013, it said, it expects to have full nationwide coverage.
Part of the rush for the next generation is the competition from WiMAX, another standard for very high-speed wireless data transmission. WiMAX is backed by, among others, Sprint, Clearwire and Intel, while Verizon will be joined in the LTE camp by AT&T.
Developing vs Developed Countries
Godfrey Chua, an analyst with industry research firm IDC, said the two technologies are not in head-to-head, winner-take-all competition. "Except for the U.S. and a few other countries," he said, "WiMAX's real traction is in the developing world," where there is a rush to jump over the stage of wires and go directly into broadband wireless.
He said LTE, on the other hand, is "evolving mostly for developed countries." Between the two technical specifications, he said, LTE "has a slightly higher peak rate" and should be able to provide at least "mid-level cable-TV service" to small mobile devices.
At some point, Chua noted, owners of the iPhone and similar devices will have to decide if they really want to pay for speeds that allow them to see high-definition video on a small screen.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart noted that Qualcomm, which is making the LTE chipsets for handheld devices, has said delivery won't be until the end of next year. He predicted we won't see a full LTE rollout from Verizon, which prides itself on its network coverage, until about 2014.
"Once they do build out the LTE network," he said, "we could see wireless broadband substituting for wired broadband."
One wireless activity that will be easier, Greengart noted, will be uploading such large files as video or high-resolution photos.