Verizon Wireless 4G Handsets Coming Mid-2011

With the trials for its new 4G network under way and plans for national deployment to begin this year, Verizon Wireless is now reportedly moving up the availability date for its 4G handsets to mid-2011.

Previously, the company planned on handsets by the end of next year, so this half-year reduction is the latest in a series of moves to accelerate the rollout of LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, the 4G successor to its 3G network.

The disclosure was made by Anthony Melone, chief technology officer at Verizon Wireless, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Verizon is on track to begin 4G rollouts later this year.

"They've been pretty aggressive over the past year about pushing up the completion of their rollout," Avi Greengart, research director for mobile products at Current Analysis, told InternetNews.com. "They aren't starting any earlier, they've always said they would start at the end of the year. Originally, they talked about completion in 2014. Now they are pulling that in by as much as a year to two years."

While the network deployment has begun, the delay in a handset is due in part to the fact that the chipset isn't finished, Greengart said. It's still being sampled and tested by chip makers, and the network is only in the very earliest of trials.

Melone noted that the phones will be compatible with both the existing 3G network and the new LTE, but it would initially require two chips. "Very likely, we initially won't have a single, integrated chip," he told the Journal.

This raises the question of power drain, since it's not known how much power a 4G chip will draw from a phone compared to a 3G chip, let alone having both chips in one device. It's yet another detail to be worked out, Greengart said.

"If the technology is true to form, typically the first generation is before they've optimized it and worked the kinks out," he said. "I'm sure someone will say that because it's more spectrum-efficient, it would use less battery life, but we'll see."

Separately, Melone mentioned the possibility that unlimited data plans may be phased out as carriers try to recoup the billions of dollars they're spending on these 4G deployments. He said that plans allowing "as much data as you can consume is the big issue that has to change."

But it's a balance, he noted, saying that Verizon isn't aiming to scare subscribers away from using their phones for data-intensive applications. "It's one thing to say all you can eat is gone," he said. "It's another to have consumers worrying, 'Can I stream this radio?' That's what we don't want."

Verizon is considering some kind of metering service so users know how much data they have downloaded for the month.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


3G, handset, 4g, LTE, Verizon Wireless