Customers of Verizon’s mobile network received a pleasant surprise yesterday when the carrier announced that it had launched a new technology in 461 U.S. cities designed to make wireless data download speeds as much as 50 percent faster. Verizon said the upgrade, dubbed “LTE Advanced," will affect more than 288 million clients.
Verizon mobile customers don't have to pay extra for the new network or take any additional steps to access it. As long as customers are using one of the 39 devices approved for the network and their devices are running the latest software, they should start experiencing the faster speeds automatically, the company said.
How Does It Work?
The new technology uses software that combines two or three separate bandwidth channels into one larger channel to send data sessions over the most efficient route to completion, according to Verizon. This technology, known as “carrier aggregation,: uses a combination of 700 MHz, AWS, and PCS spectrum.
“Imagine a road with multiple lanes in which, once you pick a lane, that’s the lane you drive in,” said Nicki Palmer, Verizon’s chief wireless network engineer, in a statement. That image described the company’s pre-existing 4G LTE network. “Continuing the metaphor, Verizon LTE Advanced allows cars to change lanes efficiently and flawlessly, balancing the flow of traffic and getting drivers to their destinations more efficiently,” Palmer added.
Verizon customers will continue to experience typical download speeds of 5 MBPS to 12 Mbps, according to the company. But the two-channel carrier aggregation of the type used by LTE Advanced has shown peak download speeds of up to 225 Mbps, far exceeding the current speeds being experienced by wireless data networks nationwide, according to Verizon.
Meanwhile, three-channel carrier aggregation provides even greater efficiency, the company said. Verizon engineers deploying three-channel carrier aggregation have experienced speeds greater than 300 Mbps, which would be faster than even most home broadband connections.
Who Needs 300 Mbps, Anyway?
With speeds that fast, though, it’s not immediately clear what sort of use cases the company is targeting. Most mobile apps are built to be as small as possible, and most Verizon customers should be able to download any app in less than a minute.
Even most video and music content is probably too small to cause users to experience a significant difference in terms of absolute download times, since few people are downloading Blu-ray versions of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy onto their phones.
But the upgrade does help position the company for whatever data-heavy content the future might bring. While 300 Mbps streaming speeds might not make a noticeable difference to users watching YouTube videos on their phones, those speeds could prove to be a lifesaver in five years when consumers are regularly using their mobile devices to stream virtual reality or augmented reality content.
The upgrade is designed to work with the devices already running on Verizon’s network, including the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 smartphones, Moto Droids, and Apple iPhones. As new devices from Apple, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers are introduced, they will also be added to the LTE Advanced network out of the box, Verizon said.