Verizon 'Supercharges' Growth With Nationwide Clear Spectrum

Verizon Wireless unveiled plans Friday to roll out a fourth-generation (4G) wireless network over the next three years with its newly acquired slice of spectrum.

In a conference call with investors, Verizon executives said the new network would deliver wireless broadband at speeds far higher than today, fueling its push into mobile data services.

"We saw this as an opportunity that would really supercharge our growth if we could procure a nationwide clear spectrum," said Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam.

He and other wireless industry executives began publicly discussing their plans late last week for 700Mhz spectrum licenses awarded through a recently completed Federal Communications Commission auction.

Verizon acquired licenses chiefly in the C-Block, a group of frequencies subject to "open access" rules requiring the spectrum owner to open its network to any device or application. With that valuable chunk of spectrum, Verizon intends to build out its 4G network using long-term evolution (LTE) technology, which will let subscribers use their mobile devices globally.

The wireless operator has begun field trials with partners Vodafone and China Mobile and will be finalizing standards during the rest of 2008. Next year, Verizon will select vendors, conduct advanced device testing and begin network deployment in the second half of 2009. The network is expected to launch commercially in 2010.

McAdam said the network "would be the fastest, from a broadband perspective," with download speeds up to 75Mbps compared to less than 5Mbps today. That, he added, would put Verizon in "position to be the first stop for application and device providers."

In addition to the C-Block, Verizon also picked up licenses covering metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. The carrier overall spent $9.36 billion for spectrum in the latest auction.

Earlier in the week, AT&T, which spent $6.6 billion on B-Block licenses, disclosed plans to build its own 4G network by 2010.

Combined with its acquisition of C-Block licenses last year from Aloha Partners, "we will put our spectrum to work so that customers can do more with their wireless devices, the user experience is superb, and wireless connectivity can be embedded in more devices," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T's wireless unit, in a statement.

Qualcomm, meanwhile--which paid $558.1 million for E- and B-block licenses--will use the additional spectrum to expand its MediaFlo broadcast TV service. The company said the purchases double its holdings in the 700MHz spectrum, covering more than 68 million people in 28 markets.

Google, which bid on C-Block licenses but did not win, acknowledged that its main goal in the auction was to set a reserve price so the open access rules it lobbied for would become effective.

The openness conditions will pave the way for forthcoming devices and applications running on Google's Android mobile operating system, an effort aimed at opening up wireless communications launched last November.

In a post on the company blog last Thursday, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, and Corporate Counsel Joseph Faber, assured that the search giant would remain active in wireless policy matters.

"The end of the auction certainly doesn't mark the end of our efforts toward greater wireless choice and innovation," they wrote. "We will weigh in at the FCC as it sets implementation rules for the C Block, and determines how to move forward with a D Block re-auction."

The Google attorneys also indicated handsets running on the Android platform would likely debut later this year.

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