Verizon’s data speeds to double later this year

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.

Dan Frommer thinks there’s a market for a Facebook phone

Who’s Going To Buy The Facebook Phone?:

But that’s hardly the entire phone market. It’s actually only a fraction of it.

What about those millions of people who have bought Android phones — and some iPhones, probably — who don’t really care that they’re Android phones, or even smartphones? The types of people who, every couple of years, go into the Verizon or AT&T shop and walk out with whatever newish thing the store rep says they should buy? (All those people who buy Android phones but don’t really show up in usage logs.) Or even first-time smartphone buyers? My guess is that many — most? — of these people are Facebook users, and could easily see some utility in having Facebook features highlighted on their phones. And — bonus — Facebook’s software looks good. Much better than the junk that ships with typical low-end Android devices.

Boom. Done. Easy, defensible purchase, assuming the price is right.

Some people just don’t give a shit about the things that nerds do. Plenty of people my age use their phones for only Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Will the HTC First do well? Probably not, but I don’t think Facebook should stop trying.

FCC proposes large public Wi-Fi networks

Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes large public WiFi networks – The Washington Post:

The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.

The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.

Seems like a pretty amazing plan. Here’s the opposition:

Some Republican lawmakers have criticized Genachowski for his idea of creating free WiFi networks, noting that an auction of the airwaves would raise billions for the U.S. Treasury.

That sentiment echoes arguments made by companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon WirelessIntel and Qualcomm, in a letter to the FCC staff late last month, that the government should focus its attention on selling the airwaves to businesses.

So that’s another industry that has bought the Republicans. 

One way to look at it: someone is going to benefit from this radio spectrum. Who should it be: the telecoms, or everyone else?

UPDATE: It isn’t happening.

My next iPhone will be prepaid and unsubsidized

As you may have heard, it’s been announced that Virgin Mobile will be offering the iPhone 4S as a prepaid phone with plans starting as low as $30 per month that include unlimited data. This is following a similar announcement several days ago that Cricket will be offering the iPhone with plans starting at $55 per month. The only downside to either of these options is that the phones are sold unsubsidized (in the case of Virgin) or only slightly subsidized (in the case of Cricket).

This means that instead of only paying $200 up front for the iPhone, you’re paying upwards of $500 for the device itself. While this might be a tough pill for some to swallow, the fact of the matter is that either of these options are steals compared to the offerings from the major carriers. To demonstrate, let me do some basic math.

On my plan at Verizon, I pay roughly $100 a month for 2 GBs of data, unlimited texting, and 450 minutes. Combined with the $200 phone itself, this results in a total cost of about $2600 for the entirerty of my 2-year contract. Compare this to a comparable plan on Virgin Mobile: $30 a month plus the $650 for phone results in a two year cost of only $1370.

That’s an insane bargain. Honestly, if Sprint starts rolling out their LTE network by the time Virgin Mobile gets the new iPhone (which I assume will be some time after the major carriers), I see no reason for me not to break my contract with Verizon to jump on the Virgin train.