Dan Mead has been with Verizon Wireless since the beginning. He was one of the company’s founding executives, served as president of Verizon Wireless’ Midwest operations for more than four years before becoming COO, and was promoted to the post of president and CEO of Verizon Wireless last fall.
Mead took the reins at Verizon Wireless less than three months before the company launched its LTE network, and to say that LTE has been a big part of his job would be a bit of an understatement.
Since he took the helm in October of last year, Verizon turned on its LTE network in 39 markets, launched its first LTE devices and announced that its next-generation mobile broadband network would cover its entire 3G footprint by the end of 2013.
Now that Verizon has made it through its first major push, the company is moving to launch nine more LTE devices by the middle of this year and said its LTE network will cover two-thirds of the U.S. population by the second half of 2012.
Verizon isn’t slowing down when it comes to the next wave of wireless technology, and Mead is right in the middle of it.
“Since 2007, when we announced our 4G technology path, we knew the market would develop very fast. We believed from the beginning that a broad and aggressive LTE launch was not only in the best interest of Verizon Wireless, but also in the best interest of our customers and the global LTE ecosystem, including our many partners,” Mead said in an e-mail interview.
LTE delivers what 3G promised but failed to produce: streaming video, mobile video chat, gaming, and fast Web browsing and downloads. They’re all possible over 3G, but work much better on an LTE network thanks to the technology’s improved speed, capacity and latency.
So far, Verizon’s LTE network is working as advertised with 5 to 12 Mbps on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink. Industry veteran Andrew Seybold recently took Verizon’s LTE service for a test drive in Washington, D.C., and found that the network’s downlink speeds were faster than Verizon’s own estimates.
At its fastest, Seybold clocked Verizon’s LTE service at up to 15.55 Mbps on the downlink, with uplink speeds hitting 4.58 Mbps on the high end. Showing customers what LTE is capable of delivering takes more than talking about hard numbers. Verizon is demonstrating the capabilities of its new network with services like Skype mobile video chat, which will come pre-loaded on many of Verizon’s upcoming LTE smartphones.
“The combination of increased speed and lower latency greatly enhances the video chat experience, as well as multiplayer gaming, healthcare monitoring, emergency response and other applications,” Mead said. “We are building the network to support those applications and working with our partners to bring those services to market sooner rather than later.”
Mead said there are also opportunities for LTE to shake things up in the machine-to-machine (M2M) space. M2M applications like cargo tracking or Internet connectivity for ATM machines typically have lower bandwidth requirements than their consumer-focused counterparts, and many M2M technologies are only just beginning to migrate to 3G networks. However, the availability of LTE could push new industries to adopt M2M for high-bandwidth applications like alarm systems with streaming video.
“LTE has the potential to transform machine-to-machine connections for businesses and in our personal lives. Huge opportunities exist in energy management, healthcare, transportation, education, security, the financial sector and other areas,” Mead said. “Whether an M2M application rides on LTE will depend on the intelligence and video capabilities needed.”
For all the new applications that LTE brings to the table, Mead said Verizon has stayed focused on the same thing it focused on with previous generations of wireless technology: the quality of the network.
“Networks have always been about how you build and manage them, from backhaul to redundancy to reliability. The same is true for 4G,” he said. “Our end game is building the best network and we believe our customers’ experience will align with our marketing promise.”
Of course, Verizon’s LTE network isn’t the only 4G game in town. Sprint and Clearwire have had their mobile WiMAX services on the market since January 2009 and now cover 71 markets across the United States.
T-Mobile USA’s HSPA+ services are available in 100 cities across the country and the company plans to launch dual-carrier HSPA+ this year. AT&T plans to begin LTE services this year and is working to get backhaul out to its HSPA+ sites. If AT&T’s acquisition of T- Mobile goes through, AT&T will expand its LTE deployment to an additional 46.5 million Americans, covering 294 million people in the United States.
Then there’s MetroPCS, whose LTE service is available in 13 cities, and LightSquared, which is working to build a hybrid satellite-terrestrial LTE network.
“This is an exciting time in the industry. The next wave of innovation will be truly transformational to our day-to-day business and personal lives,” Mead said. “Sophisticated wireless networks will connect people, places and things that were previously unconnected or connect them in new, richer ways.”