Despite three service outages in December, Verizon Wireless intends to keep pace with the ever-changing world of telecommunications and plans to offer expansive 4G LTE coverage by the end of next year.
In Rhode Island, Verizon began providing the service in some areas in mid-November. “Specific timing for future updates regarding expansion in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts is not available, but Verizon Wireless plans to offer full nationwide coverage everywhere they have 3G coverage today by the end of 2013,” said Mike Murphy, a Verizon Wireless spokesman.
Coverage in the state centers around the Providence metropolitan area and branches north toward the Blackstone Valley. In Massachusetts, local coverage extends throughout Bristol County.
The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network is the nation’s largest such wireless network. It is available in 190 U.S. cities and covers more than 200 million people.
In telecommunications, 4G is the fourth and most recent generation of cellular wireless standards, supplanting 3G technology. Long Term Evolution, referred to as LTE, is a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for cellular phones and is an improved version of 4G. The 4G LTE service is the quickest currently available.
Verizon Wireless launched its 4G LTE network in December 2010 but the company still feels the pressure of an ever-changing and competitive market. Currently, Verizon’s chief rival is AT&T Mobility, which provides coverage across Rhode Island with its 3G network.
“We have added three new cell sites in the state in 2011, enhanced connections to enable 4G speeds and added capacity to over 60 Rhode Island cell sites,” said Kate MacKinnon, director of news relations at AT&T. “The company launched its Greater Boston 4G LTE network in November and will continue improving its coverage over the next two years. A recap of data for Rhode Island will be issued later this quarter.”
AT&T has made moves to increase its 4G network, including a $4 billion deal to buy capacity from a group of cable companies in Chicago. In December, the company failed in its $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile, another carrier, due to concerns expressed by the U.S. Department of Justice. T-Mobile is the fourth-largest mobile-phone company in the country and provides 4G coverage in much of Rhode Island, but not in rural areas.
According to Murphy, the new generation will vastly improve Verizon’s services. “In regards to how 4G LTE will affect business, business customers can improve productivity with faster upload and download speeds, greater bandwidth to handle large data files, multimedia and mobility,” he said. “Both smartphones and tablets are quickly proving to be essential business tools, delivering the portability and performance businesses need.”
But the effort hasn’t been without its growing pains. In April 2011 the system suffered a major outage, delaying the release of their Samsung Droid Charge smartphone. In December, three additional outages resulted in the release of a public statement that explained some of the difficulties that had been experienced.
At the same time, Verizon announced their plan to add a $2 fee for customers paying bills by phone or by Internet. The proposal was rescinded the next day due to a large public outcry. Verizon also faces new competition in 2012 from Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire Corp., which will be building out their own 4G LTE networks over the next two years.
Sprint Nextel began offering 4G wireless in the Providence metropolitan area in September, 2010. Sprint owns 51 percent of Clearwire, which has other investors including Comcast and Google. •