As noted earlier today
, Verizon was scheduled to begin throttling unlimited LTE customers, the top 5% of users finding their speed dialed back if they're operating on a congested tower. This afternoon Verizon announced they'd be backing away from this policy. The company issued a statement to the media insisting they've "greatly valued the ongoing dialogue" on the subject the last few months, and will not be proceeding as scheduled because the company is dedicated to "exceptional network service."
The full statement:
Verizon is committed to providing its customers with an unparalleled mobile network experience. At a time of ever-increasing mobile broadband data usage, we not only take pride in the way we manage our network resources, but also take seriously our responsibility to deliver exceptional mobile service to every customer.
We've greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we've decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans. Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value.
There's two things at play here. One, Verizon has thus far refused to seriously compete with T-Mobile and others on price
, because they claim they offer a high-end network. That message doesn't work as well if the headlines are focused on network congestion (real or otherwise). Two, the company is wary of FCC boss Tom Wheeler's recent inquiries
about whether or not Verizon is using network congestion as an excuse to push grandfathered unlimited users to more expensive tiers, and would likely prefer it if the agency didn't crack down on such practices.
See update at bottom. Just a reminder that if you're a grandfathered Verizon LTE customer, you're going to possibly find your connection throttled starting today. story continues..
Dish announced in May of last year
that the company would be offering fixed LTE services in a new partnership with nTelos. At the time, the companies stated they'd be ultimately offering the service in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky -- though hard details on the plan were hard to come by.
Back in May Verizon Unveiled their new "XLTE" branded speed upgrades, powered by the 1700/2100 MHz AWS spectrum Verizon acquired that spectrum from the cable industry back in 2011. Since last year Verizon has been using this spectrum to bolster their existing LTE network, bringing speed and capacity improvements to existing LTE markets. Verizon has announced
that they've extended these XLTE upgrades into an additional 22 markets, and now offers the upgrades in 400 of the company's roughly 500 LTE markets.
On the heels of a recent RootMetrics study
that lauded Verizon as having the fastest, largest and most reliable network, the company is again receiving praise from JD Power and Associates. According to a new JD power study
(pdf), Verizon ranked highest in wireless network quality in five geographic regions (Northeast, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West), while AT&T ranked highest in one geographic region (Mid-Atlantic).
AT&T and Verizon have both delayed their particular implementations of higher-definition voice over LTE services, though AT&T appears poised to beat Verizon to the bunch. Sources tell Engadget
that AT&T's VoLTE should launch on May 23, most likely first in Minneapolis and Chicago. Interoperability has been a big reason for most VoLTE delays, and your phone may or may not actually work with the new service (some phones may need an OTA update, others may not work with VoLTE at all). AT&T should have some more meaningful compatibility and technical specifics in the next few weeks. "We're wrapping up our initial VoLTE market trials and our initial markets will be VoLTE ready this year," is all AT&T's willing to say at the moment.
One of the more notable benefits of faster LTE speeds was supposed to be the higher quality phone call audio made possible by VoLTE, though carrier interoperability and battery/performance problems appear to have hindered deployments on numerous fronts. AT&T, who originally stated they'd be launching the service in some capacity by late last year
, this week admitted that their deployment of VoLTE would be delayed
. AT&T's offering now timeline now for when the improved voice quality platform will reach consumers, though they claim the project is in "the final stages of optimization." Verizon has also seen several delays in implementation.
The FCC is set to launch the agency's first major spectrum auction in six years tomorrow, as the commission begins to sell off a single 10 MHz block of 1900 MHz PCS airwaves known as the "H Block." Sprint and T-Mobile have previously stated they won't be participating in the auction
in order to focus on other upcoming auctions. Ergen and Dish are expected to be the prime suitor for the spectrum, and should offer up the $1.56 billion reserve bid price. Dish has been collecting spectrum for the possibility of building their own LTE network
, or just selling it down the road at a premium.
Our belated attempt to build a nationwide emergency LTE network has already faced criticism
due to board members' close ties to wireless carriers; the organizations investigation of itself
not exactly eliminating those concerns. Now it appears that FirstNet may also be facing budget problems.
Dish has offered up a little more detail on an already-announced plan to offer fixed wireless broadband service. Dish announced back in May
that the company would be offering fixed LTE services in a new partnership with nTelos.
AT&T and T-Mobile have enjoyed being the LTE speed leaders during early LTE network comparison tests
, though Verizon's deployment of wider 2x20MHz channels will likely give Verizon the last laugh, analysts insist. As recently noted
, Verizon has started using the AWS spectrum won at auction years ago to bolster their existing LTE network, the results on an unloaded network showing 80 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up, with a theoretical top end of 150 Mbps for the 40-MHz LTE network.
While the improved audio fidelity benefits of voice over LTE (VoLTE) aren't expected to be seen in any real volume until well into 2014, AT&T says they hope to launch their first VoLTE-supported phone before the end of the year. "I do believe there might be a VoLTE-compliant device for the holidays this year," AT&T Labs President Krish Prabhu said today
at an industry conference.
Whether you'll be able to actually use VoLTE is another question entirely, since interoperability issues will plague the technology for some time, and while VoLTE handsets may be available this fall, the VoLTE infrastructure won't yet be fully baked. Prabhu also reiterated AT&T's intent to cover 270 million POPs (potential customers) with LTE by year-end, up from 240 million now.
AT&T has announced that they've brought faster LTE connectivity to another 14 markets, including Abilene, Texas and Greenville, North Carolina. According to AT&T
, these latest launches bring their LTE market total to nearly 400, meaning it shouldn't be much of a problem for the company to reach their expanded
year-end LTE market deployment goal of 420. AT&T this week also says they expanded existing LTE operations in several markets including Sacramento.
While all four major wireless carriers profess to have the nation's "largest 4G network," there remains some obvious differences in LTE deployment. Fierce Wireless
has compiled a good breakdown of where things currently stand among the country's big four in terms of LTE coverage. Verizon
continues their lead with 301 million potential customers (POPs) covered, followed by AT&T
(225 million POPs), T-Mobile
(167 million POPs), and Sprint
(POPs not provided). Both Sprint and T-Mobile got late starts, but are rapidly gaining ground in their fight against AT&T and Verizon. Have you noticed improvements?
Last week AT&T rather quietly deployed an LTE service aimed at home users called, quite creatively, AT&T Wireless Home Phone and Internet
. Like Verizon's Home Fusion
service, AT&T's Wireless Home Phone and Internet service is aimed squarely at rural users without any fixed-line options.
Sprint today announced that Brooklyn and The Bronx will have full access to Sprint's shiny new LTE network as of July 30 (aka next Tuesday). According to a Sprint press release
, users in Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens will officially see LTE service launched in the "coming months," though many users have already been able to access the network for some time
. The company currently offers LTE in more than 110 markets, with the aim of covering 200 million potential customers by the end of the year. Sprint also today that they've finalized a deal with Transit Wireless that will allow Sprint users to use their service at the growing number of subway stations
where Transit Wireless is providing cellular service.
AT&T today announced that they've launched LTE in 35 new markets, and have expanded LTE availability in 17 existing markets. The launches (full list available below) bring AT&T's LTE market total to 326 markets. story continues..
We've now seen two
that have shown that AT&T's LTE network is the fastest, even though Verizon's tends to have broader coverage and be more reliable. That's effectively what PC Magazine's new analysis of the fastest wireless networks found
, the company working with Sensorly to collect data in thirty cities. "In our first truly fair fight between LTE networks, AT&T came through with faster upload and download speeds overall than Verizon Wireless, although Verizon offered better reliability and greater rural coverage than its competitor." Another trend we're seeing in these studies: T-Mobile's LTE (where available) is faster than Verizon, while Sprint's average LTE speeds fail to impress. It will be interesting to see if these numbers change as both AT&T and T-Mobile see greater user loads on their LTE networks.
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