In a rare move, Verizon Wireless executive Fran Shammo had admitted that the carrier’s 4G LTE network in major cities is under heavy strain and is congested, leading to slower speeds to end users. Customers in markets such as New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago are noticing both slower speeds on Verizon’s 4G LTE network as well as being kicked off of the faster 4G protocol to the slower 3G CDMA/EV-DO network as a result of a network that is heavily taxed.
Speaking at the Wells Fargo Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo said that the carrier is working hard to fix the problems, and that speeds should return to normal by the end of the year. To increase capacity, and thereby reducing congestion, Fierce Wireless reported that Shammo says that Verizon will deploy small cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), and deploy 4G LTE over the new AWS spectrum. Over 5,000 cell sites will have AWS spectrum activated by the end of the year according to Shammo. With AWS, Verizon will have a wider 20 X 20 MHz spectrum channel to deliver faster speeds–it’s the equivalent of opening more lanes on a busy highway.
According to the latest Root Metrics reports, AT&T is crowned the fastest LTE network in many major metropolitan areas, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. This is quite the turn around for AT&T, which had suffered from dropped calls and slower speeds after the iPhone launched in 2007.
Given the increase adoption of data-heavy devices–like smartphones, tablets, and personal mobile hotspot devices like Novatel’s MiFi–the increase data usage is placing a burden on Verizon’s network.
“The amount of consumption of video took us a little bit by surprise,” Shammo said.
The exec noted that his company’s deployment of its nationwide LTE network is almost complete, and now the carrier’s attention could be focused on building capacity rather than building out the network. Verizon’s rivals AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are still playing catch up to build out their LTE coverage map as Verizon had invested in LTE earlier on so it had a head start.
Part of the congestion problem is that users on 4G LTE are consuming more data, like videos. With a faster network, it’s easier to consume more bandwidth, something that would not be as pleasurable on a slower 3G or 2G network as videos streamed would constantly need buffering.
READ: Why VoLTE Matters
Additionally, Verizon will also be focused on delivering voice over LTE, or VoLTE, which will deliver voice calls as data similar to how VoIP is implemented. With VoLTE for 2014, Verizon could allocate more spectrum to data. The carrier hopes to demonstrate VoLTE during the Super Bowl.
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