Thinking Tech

Verizon breaks new ground in advance of 4G launch

Verizon breaks new ground in advance of 4G launch

Posting in Technology

Verizon opened a new Technology Innovation Center in advance of its roll-out of high speed 4G LTE networks later this year. Yours truly was there for the groundbreaking on this scared tech ground.

4G networks are coming to town.

That was the message from Verizon Corp. yesterday as it broke ground on a 60,000 square foot Technology Center in Waltham, Mass. where it and partners will develop and test 4G LTE (Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution) applications.

What can you expect from LTE? Well, the first thing is speed, according to Verizon CTO and EVP Dick Lynch. He explained that 4G LTE speeds will consistently range between 5-12 megabits per second (mbps) and peak at upward of 70 mbps.

He said consumers should not be fooled by the promise that 4G delivers 100 mbps. "That's not relevant," he said, explaining that most advanced applications on Verizon 4G LTE will run just fine between 5-12 mbps. "That's more than some wired [broadband] networks."

By comparison, today's 3G mobile data networks tend to peak at 2 mbps and typically operate much slower than that. I'm a Verizon 3G mobile broadband customer and feel lucky when speed reach a quarter of that.

By the end of the year, Verizon is planning to roll out LTE to upward of 30 markets with a collective population of 100 million, says Lynch. 4G trials conducted since last August have suffered the usual "growing pains," but testing will be expanded this summer as the core network is grown (rumors are rampant that Apple is coming out with 4G iPhone...could that be new Verizon iPhone that was the buzz in late March?).

Asked if voice has been difficult to develop on 4G, Lynch responded, "People have said that, [but] voice is nothing more than another application."

The Technology Innovation Center will bring Verizon's campus in Waltham to 136,000 square feet. Formerly occupied by GTE and then GTE Sylvania, the site has much tech history to its credit since its founding in the 1940s. That includes 1,000 patents on advances such as IP networks, materials, DolbyDigital Sound and other innovations arising out of fundamental research.

The campus is located on Boston's Route 128 made famous in the 60s and 70s for its preponderance of computer, software, semiconductor and other technology companies. A bit long in the tooth now, Route  128 has been referred to as "not your father's Route 128 anymore" by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in his attempts to put more shine on the traffic-clogged byway.

I hope his plan works better than GM's ad campaign "this is not your father's Oldsmobile?"

In a media tour, Verizon showcased it 4G efforts to test the network although the existing site seems more dedicated to testing FIOS applications and new settop boxes. Maybe that's because Verizon believes that 4G (or 5G and 6G) will converge with the wired world some day and make phone, TV and Internet to homes and businesses predominantly wireless.

Back to the present: in one lab, Verizon showed 1,000 settop boxes many of them its next generation settops boxes undergoing testing for bugs and other anomalies. One engineer on the tour said they find bugs all the time -- ones that consumers never see.

Excuse me? Yours truly, a new FIOS customer, mentioned a bug the Verizon techs were well aware of and just the sort they would find in that lab. It's when the remote no matter what buttons you push causes FIOS to take you to channel 1952, the FIOS tutorial. An engineer said that bug is well known and will soon be fixed.

AT&T is planning its launch of 4G next year with trials slated to begin this year. Sprint's 4G Wimax technology was commercially launched last year in the Baltimore area.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure