While other telecoms continue to roll out their initial LTE coverage in the United States, Verizon Wireless is preparing to roll out what has been described as “Phase 2” of its 4G network in the second half of this year.
The LTE network currently available to Verizon customers operates in what is known as Band 13, or the 700 MHz C Band. This spectrum of frequencies is advantageous for Verizon because its relatively low frequency let the radio waves from its cell towers travel farther for the same amount of energy. Using this band has let Verizon cover a greater area with LTE service with less work than other networks.
This move by Verizon has certainly paid off for both the company and its users – as Verizon CTO Nicola Palmer noted in this interview with Fierce Wireless back in March, the company has managed to blanket 90 percent of the United States with LTE service.
But the company isn’t stopping there. Last August, the company purchased a large swath of spectrum in Band 4, known as Advanced Wireless Services (AWS), from cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable for $3.6 billion. Then in January, Verizon announced a deal between itself and AT&T in which the company traded a small number of its licenses to the 700 MHz band for $1.9 billion and AWS licenses in certain western markets, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Fresno and Portland.
This spectrum gives Verizon several advantages. Most notable for users in urban areas, the high-frequency of the spectrum will allow radio waves to better penetrate the walls of buildings, meaning that users of AWS-compatible phones will have better LTE service indoors than they have in the past. In addition, all users of AWS devices will be sure to notice a jump in the speed of their data conenctions. According to GigaOm analyst Kevin Fitchard, Verizon owns enough AWS spectrum to more than double its LTE capacity. In fact, east of the Mississippi, it has enough to triple it.
Most Verizon customers won’t notice this switch right away because the 4G chipsets in the majority of the devices on its network don’t support the AWS spectrum. Users who upgraded to Samsung’s recent Galaxy S4, however, will: as Scott Moritz pointed out over at Bloomberg yesterday, the flagship supports the spectrum and owners of the device will have their data speeds “more than double” after an Over-The-Air software update when Verizon switches on its AWS cell sites in the second half of this year.