Four years after Verizon launched its first 4G network, the company is starting to cannibalize its existing 3G network to repurpose the spectrum for its third LTE network. According to Mike Haberman, vice president of network operations, Verizon is rolling out LTE on its PCS bands, formerly used for EV-DO, in 10 markets.
“In Manhattan, PCS is up with LTE. It puts us in even a better situation, because you’ve got another 10×10 block out there right now,” Haberman said.
Although Haberman didn’t reveal what other cities will see their PCS bands transition to LTE, the change has already been spotted in Manhattan and Cleveland, Ohio. As usage on Verizon’s EV-DO network decreases because users upgrade to new phones, it’s a foregone conclusion that Verizon will repurpose its spectrum.
“Virtually all our devices now are 4G LTE. We do sell a lot of phones and people tend to upgrade their phones fairly often,”Haberman said. “If you see Apple’s complete lineup, it’s all 4G.”
Of course, Verizon can’t fully shut down its 3G networks yet — not everyone has a new smartphone that supports LTE — but 80 percent of Verizon’s data traffic already runs on LTE. And as Verizon moves its voice and text traffic over to the IP network, it will be able to start shutting down its 2G capacity as well. Haberman pointed out that it only takes 2.5 MHz of spectrum to keep a minimal 2G network online. So there’s plenty of spectrum that can be reclaimed.
Verizon has committed to support EV-DO until at least December 31, 2019, Haberman said.
Verizon is also currently testing carrier aggregation, an LTE Advanced feature that will allow Verizon to combine the transmissions of its LTE networks together, and Haberman expects devices that support it to make their way to the U.S. next year. (This year, Samsung sold a special version of the Galaxy S5 that supports carrier aggregation in Korea.) AT&T turned on carrier aggregation earlier this year.
Carrier aggregation won’t let Verizon combine all three of its 4G networks into one super-network, at least not yet. But it will allow Verizon to bond a lower capacity system — like the emerging LTE network on PCS — with the high-capacity “XLTE” network it launched last year. That will result much faster peak download speeds for its customers.