The Future of 4G LTE: A Q&A with Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer

A sit-down discussion of what's in store.

By Tom Pica on July 16, 2013

With its 4G LTE network substantially complete, Verizon Wireless Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer answers some questions about the present and future of the company’s 4G LTE network.

Q:  How do you look at network speed and what does it really mean to customers?

A: We are engineering our network to deliver consistent speeds that average 5 to 12 megabits per second on the downlink and 2 to 5 on the uplink.

Yet, it is about more than just speed. You need speed when you want it and that's what we provide in terms of our coverage, our performance and our reliability.

Q: What can customers look forward to next in terms of 4G LTE services?

A: We'll continue our network evolution with the introduction of voice over LTE (VoLTE) next year. VoLTE will provide our customers with a richer voice experience. It will also enable a host of communication services such as video chat and video-casting. We're testing VoLTE right now in the lab as well as on our commercial network, and we plan to launch in 2014. And I can tell you that I personally have made VoLTE calls on our commercial network and the quality really is quite remarkable.

Q: What is Verizon’s plan for its AWS spectrum and what role does it play on your 4G LTE network?

A: Our initial LTE deployment was on the 700 megahertz spectrum, which is nationwide. AWS becomes the next piece of spectrum that we put to use, adding depth to our 4G LTE network. We have a nice block of AWS spectrum in the East. And we picked up additional holdings of AWS, primarily in the West. Plus, across the U.S., we have a depth of AWS spectrum in many, many of the markets that we serve.

Q: What is LTE Advanced and what are Verizon Wireless’ plans for it?

A: LTE Advanced is really a matter of standards-based network enhancements and performance features and how you deploy them. We plan on leading in this space just as we have led in the deployment of LTE.

We're excited about the carrier aggregation feature of LTE Advanced that allows us to take our 700 MHz and AWS spectrum assets and make them seamlessly operate together and appear as one to devices and to customers.       

Q: Can you talk a little more about small cells, which seem to be a hot topic in the wireless technology world?

A: Small cell technology for us is an LTE-only technology. We will deploy it this year in a variety of configurations. We look at small cells as one tool in the toolkit that allows us to adjust to network capacity demands. However, we have many ways to address capacity and don't look to small cells as the single solution. We plan to continue to “densify” the network with cell splits and sector splits, indoor and outdoor digital antenna systems, and all of the other things that we've always done to optimize network performance and create a great customer experience.

Q: What happens to the 3G network?

A: We have a lot of great customers on our 3G network and we're committed to operating that network through the end of this decade. But with 57 percent of customer data usage now on our 4G LTE network, we do look to manage 3G volume down over time. Our spectrum strategy for LTE starts with 700 MHz, which has been broadly deployed. We're looking at AWS in the second half of this year for adding depth and longevity to LTE. Then we will turn longer-term to the PCS spectrum that now carries some of our 3G traffic. We expect that as 4G LTE usage continues to grow and demand for 3G shrinks, it will allow us to begin to re-farm PCS spectrum, starting in the 2015 time frame.

View a video interview with Nicola Palmer here