Update: Serendipitously, Kevin Pritchard at GigOM just published an article on Verizon’s New network. I added some thinking about this below…
There’s disappointingly little to report from the Small Cell Forum meetings in Dallas, TX this week, was hoping for someone to make bold moves. Anyhow, ever notice that most LTE macro network operators are very hesitant to push the envelope as far as performance is concerned. It’s really surprising given that EVERYONE is deploying LTE, devices are more or less ubiquitous and so that really leaves performance and price as the key mobile data service differentiators.
So that brings me to some recent press release I read about Root Metrics performance comparison of the US operators. Here is a sample of their data:
Average download and upload speeds by carrier
AT&T: 17.0 Mbps download/7.6 Mbps upload
Verizon: 11.9 Mbps download/5.0 Mbps upload
T-Mobile: 10.9 Mbps download/4.9 Mbps upload
Sprint: 5.7 Mbps download/2.5 Mbps upload
Cricket: 0.6 Mbps download/0.4 Mbps upload
Let’s re-frame this data a little bit. Here is a comparison of Now to Then…
So what gives???
SON eh? There are other things they are doing but there are lots of things they are NOT doing either….
To be fair, there’s a little uneven playing field here- Verizon has more extensive LTE coverage and more users, therefore you could argue the loading was not identical but on the other hand, with SON on your side, that’s is always true.
As I mentioned above, Kevin Pritchard at GigaOM published an article titled “Verizon quietly unleashes its LTE monster, tripling 4G capacity in major cities” BTW there is a similar article written 15 October 13 By Andrew Martonik in Android Central…Verizon deploying LTE on AWS spectrum in major markets
Here is the summary:
On the third anniversary of its LTE launch, Verizon is delivering a new 4G network. Over the last few months, it’s been quietly deploying the fastest, highest capacity LTE network in the country.
The GigaOM article touts the NEW Verizon network. Hmmm. So let’s look at this 2 ways. Firstly, for existing UEs, The current crop of RF baseband processors in devices like the Qualcomm 9615/Snapdragon 600/800 etc… support up to 3GPP Release 9, therefore most of the devices will only support 1 frequency at a time. I’ll explain why I said that in a bit. This means that old devices will remain on Verizon’s Band 13 (Upper 700MHz) AND only new devices (example: Nexus 5, Samsung S4 USA Version, iPhone 5S/c) will support their new AWS Band. So the capacity crunch won’t immediately feel much better. Next, the best that a user in each band can hope for from the network is 84Mbps peak or somewhere around 11-17Mbps per the tested results above.
The reason I said 1 frequency at a time is that 3GPP Release 10 introduces a new feature called carrier aggregation. This allows the network and device to bundle multiple spectrums into a logical channel. In Verizon’s case this could be AWS and 700MHz channels sooner and PCS and 800 as time moves forward (and they refarm their existing spectrum.) So the good news is these users will see peaks closer to 150Mbps. I would call that the NEW Verizon network for sure. The bad news is the only device that currently supports that is a Korean market Samsung S4.
Qualcomm has added support for Carrier Aggregation in MDM9225 and MDM9625, so eagerly anticipate a faster Samsung S5 or Apple iPhone 6. So in summary, it’s a bit early to tout that Verizon has a NEW network. Back to my original point, until they get Carrier Aggregation, their spectrum efficiency of 1.19 vs AT&T’s of 1.7 won’t change much!
To the average consumer this means generally, slightly, slower throughput if a Verizon subscriber and Verizon is paying about a 30% premium over the air to provide the bits to you versus AT&T.
So it looks from afar that AT&T’s investment in SON is saving them at least 30% compared to their biggest competitor with identical spectrum. What’s holding everyone back from massive SON implementation again??
Lastly, the GigaOM article mentions that AT&T cannot do the same. Well, they could have if they converted their network to TDD, then they would have an even faster (peaks) network with 20MHz aggregated from existing then they could throw their MediaFlo spectrum (lower 700MHz unpaired block) at it. Instead they will go shopping. They tried to pick up TMO and use that AWS but it looks like the Band 12 guys just cashed in their golden tickets…