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AT&T Verizon Wireless Networking

How Much LTE Spectrum Do Big Carriers Have? 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the piece-of-the-pie dept.
alphadogg writes "The top U.S. carriers over the past year have stepped up their efforts to grab more spectrum for 4G wireless data services needed to accommodate a seemingly insatiable and exploding population of iPhone, iPad and other mobile device users. Here's a look at where Verizon, AT&T and others are at on the spectrum acquisition front and what they'll need in the future to deliver ubiquitous 4G service across the United States as mobile users seek to view and exchange more video and other bandwidth-hogging content."
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How Much LTE Spectrum Do Big Carriers Have?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:43PM (#38792855)

    Why reference the "exploding population of iPhone, iPad and other mobile device users" when the iPhone and iPad don't even have 4G?

    • by alen (225700)

      worldwide LTE usage is a tiny minority of total worldwide smartphone users

      verizon has the largest LTE network. there are a few small test networks in europe. AT&T is building out as well. most outside of the USA wireless carriers have no plans to build LTE for a few more years

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        uh, vodaphone basically controls/owns verizon, and how big do you suppose they are in europe?

        hint: huge.

        So it's a question of market and inevitability of when it will happen, actually. And as noted, Sweden's been ahead of the game for a while, and I'd presume Japan too.

        • uh, vodaphone basically controls/owns verizon, and how big do you suppose they are in europe?

          hint: huge.

          So it's a question of market and inevitability of when it will happen, actually. And as noted, Sweden's been ahead of the game for a while, and I'd presume Japan too.

          someone please moderate this as a troll. I've used my mod points. He is clueless.

      • by wiedzmin (1269816)

        verizon has the largest LTE network. there are a few small test networks in europe. AT&T is building out as well. most outside of the USA wireless carriers have no plans to build LTE for a few more years

        Citation needed. Rogers in Canada offers LTE in all major cities. Last I checked Canada wasn't part of US yet.

        • by alen (225700)

          verizon covers 200 million people with LTE

          how much people are in sweden and canada?

    • by not already in use (972294) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:48PM (#38792937)
      Because once a 4g enabled iPhone is released, it will be introduced as being "revolutionary, the first to implement such technology." So really, the article is just forward-looking.
      • In a way, Apple has been wise to wait on 4G to catch up to the point where... well, where it actually means something because it doesn't mean anything right now.

        • by not already in use (972294) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:59PM (#38793117)
          4g does mean something right now. It means you can advertise a phone as have another "g." Regardless of whether or not you can use that fourth "g," consumers are generally idiots that are easily swayed by such things. It's got 4 g's? Well it must be better than a phone with 3 g's. It's got a 5 megapixel camera instead of a 4 megapixel camera? More megapixels are better!
          • I recently was using a "4G" phone on AT&T, then switched to a 3g phone on Sprint. I don't believe there is any difference whatsoever in data speed between the two. If there is any, it's completely indiscernible.

            • by AxemRed (755470)
              You may have been using a 4G phone in an area without 4G coverage. I have a 4G phone in an area with 4G coverage. The difference is huge. In case anyone wants numbers, I'll run a speed test:

              Speakeasy.net going from Indianapolis to the Chicago test location. Using a Droid Bionic phone through Verizon.
              4G: 35Mbps down, 12Mbps up
              3G: 0.48Mbps down, 0.47Mbps up
              • by GodInHell (258915)
                My bionic is often faster than my home network connection. That was never true of any 3g phone I've used (and I've used a few I*hones.)
                • by poetmatt (793785)

                  Yes. Same here. Considering the cost of internet service on a tethered device, as long as Verizon isn't a gigantic prick about it I am entirely considering cutting off cable TV and cable internet entirely for a 30ms higher ping with a faster connection than we pay $80 for. Guess it shows who's really competing and who's not.

                  Verizon has ensured that comcast will go out of business from this too, as they've mutually agreed not to tread on eachother's service - aka verizon wont' offer FIOS where comcast offers

                  • by jandrese (485)

                    Considering the cost of internet service on a tethered device, as long as Verizon isn't a gigantic prick about it...

                    Um, I have some bad news for you.

                    • by GodInHell (258915)
                      I average about 10 Gig of download per month through verizon. That have yet to become gigantic pricks about it. I really can't complain about there service. (as a person that enjoys bitching, this is annoying at times, but I like my Netflix on my train ride to work -- so I will endure). I am one of the lucky ones with unlimited for $30 a month though.

                      -GiH
              • by TheSync (5291)

                "4G: 35Mbps down"

                Once there are hundreds of 4G phones watching streaming video on your cell, I wonder if these results will continue to be hold...

                • I was just talking with a VZW rep last night. At present only about 2.5% of their customer base has 4G - so your question is definitely relevant. He also said VZW refuses to accept any more new models from manufacturers that are not 4G.

              • No, Minneapolis has coverage and the phone indicated it was connected to such.

              • You may have been using a 4G phone in an area without 4G coverage. I have a 4G phone in an area with 4G coverage. The difference is huge. In case anyone wants numbers, I'll run a speed test:

                Speakeasy.net going from Indianapolis to the Chicago test location. Using a Droid Bionic phone through Verizon.

                4G: 35Mbps down, 12Mbps up

                3G: 0.48Mbps down, 0.47Mbps up

                I think he might have been commenting on how there weren't any noticeable difference in real-world use for him.

            • by bkaul01 (619795)
              Many of AT&T's current "4G" phone offerings are HSPA+, not LTE - that is, they're faster than its 3G network, which is itself already faster than Verizon's 3G network, but they're not capable of nearly the transfer speeds of LTE. On the up side, since it's a multiplexed "3G+" technology, with enhanced backhaul on their end, they've been able to roll it out quickly over most of their coverage area while they're still working on building out an LTE network. On the down side, it's not true LTE "4G" yet.
              • Right, that was the overall point. AT&T is selling things with "4G" written on them that are no faster than 3G.

                • by bkaul01 (619795)

                  Not as fast as LTE, but certainly faster than 3G. Even AT&T's 3G data speeds are about twice what Sprint's are, and their HSPA+ "4G" speeds are about twice as fast as their own 3G speeds, though not as fast as their LTE speeds (which should be more like 10x their own 3G), so AT&T's HSPA+ "4G" network should have roughly 4x the throughput of Sprint's 3G network. Sprint's WiMAX "4G" speeds are roughly on par with AT&T's HSPA+ "4G" speeds, but again nowhere near LTE. I'm not discounting your anecdo

            • by nahdude812 (88157) *

              Around here, AT&T's 3G is slower than AT&T's 2G (EDGE), even with full bars - to the point where I sometimes have trouble successfully sending an email. I'm not sure I'd consider them a good benchmark of what the capability of the technology is. 4G definitely supports more bandwidth than 3G, as long as the carrier can provide a wide-enough pipe to the cell tower.

          • by jandrese (485)
            The big advantage of being an early adopter is that you get the spectrum mostly to yourself, so your data transfers are blazing fast when you have coverage (which may not be very often depending on what you do). 3G users right now are crammed in there with a bazillion iPhones and Droids and end up with just a trickle of data overall in busy areas.

            Over time this benefit will diminish, but it's likely to be another year or two until 4G users start to even notice congestion slowdowns outside of extreme eve
          • by AJH16 (940784)

            Or it means that I get 5mbps down and 2mbps up on my phone anywhere that I have 4G service. I was getting something sub-500kbps on my Galaxy S. As a real world speed test, I could barely stream sub-SD quality Netflix to it over cellular, and that was with lag and periodically having to buffer. Running on 4G, it can actually run a 1080p stream from Netflix, on the fly, without issue. If that isn't a difference, I'm not sure what you are looking for. (For reference, I was using a Galaxy S Fascinate with

            • Last I checked, the only device capable of 1080p from Netflix was a PS3. (I could be wrong, that data was from 6 months ago)
              • by AJH16 (940784)

                After some more checking, yes, you appear to be correct. It seems it was 720p resolution. I was running 1080p from my laptop, but it would appear the signal provided was only 720p. I just know that it was running at maximum, I'm not aware of any way that the client shows the actual detail level, just whether it is encountering issues.

        • by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:00PM (#38793131)

          In a way, Apple has been wise to wait on 4G to catch up to the point where... well, where it actually means something because it doesn't mean anything right now.

          I have been enjoying LTE on my Verizon HTC Thunderbolt for almost a year now, and I categorically disagree with that statement. It certainly means something because it's about 10x faster than the competitors, and is significantly (read - 2-3X) faster in real world use.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "because it's about 10x faster than the competitors, and is significantly (read - 2-3X) faster in real world use."

            We're not talking about draining the battery, we're talking about the data transfer speeds.

            Posting anonymously due to fanboys that will take a flamethrower to my karma, because they can't take a joke.

          • by phayes (202222)

            LTE deployment being what it is, it may be nice in your neck of the woods but for the rest of the 90% of us it only means that the battery drains faster...

            • by Envy Life (993972)
              Turn on the 4G radio on when you need it and leave it off the other 90% of the time for a perfect combination of speed and battery life.

              LTE deployment being what it is, it may be nice in your neck of the woods but for the rest of the 90% of us it only means that the battery drains faster...

              • by phayes (202222)

                Translated into my neck of the woods that gets turned into "just turn off the LTE radio as there is no signal here anyway" which once again is the case for most of us.

            • by letsief (1053922)

              Verizon's LTE coverage is actually pretty good. They cover lots of major cities, and since they're using a relatively low frequency, it penetrates walls and into buildings much, much, much better than Sprint/Clear's wimax coverage. Verizon claims to cover about 75% of the population with their current LTE deployment, which I believe based on the traveling I've done.

              Of course, it seems sucks down the battery. That will be the case until LTE is everywhere, allowing Verizon to switch to Voice-over-LTE and t

          • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2NO@SPAManthonymclin.com> on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:34PM (#38793693) Homepage

            I think what the GP meant is that since 4G isn't widespread, and there are differing network technologies that aren't completely settled yet, Apple was smart (in terms of what's better for their sales numbers) in not shipping a 4G unit because:

            1) If a substantial portion (if not majority) of their customers can't use the 4G feature, Apple would get backlash for selling it.
            2) It's a feature they'll be able to market as differentiating from their older devices once released.
            3) They can wait for 4G network types to become more standardized, reducing design and manufacturing costs.
            4) 4G is bad for battery time, and smartphones already suffer poorly in this regard.

            For consumers, yes a 4G iPhone on the market now would be beneficial, but only for the user savvy enough to know why 4G is a good thing and only if they'll actually be able to use it. For everyone else, it's a meaningless feature on the side of the box.

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              Heck, perhaps given that iPhone users use the most data, Apple's simply waiting for carriers to beef up their data networks so there won't be a complete meltdown when the iPhone starts supporting LTE. So all your LTE users right now - enjoy the speed while it lasts. When the iPhone with LTE is released, it might be wise to switch to 3G...

              That, and there's a lack of LTE+voice chipsets out there - there are LTE chipsets, and voice chipsets, but no combined ones, so that's more board space. Qualcomm is suppose

          • by geek (5680) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:44PM (#38795053)

            Have fun using your monthly bandwidth cap in 30 minutes. LTE is worthless for anyone that know's it's limitations with the carriers right now.

        • In a way, Apple has been wise to wait on 4G to catch up to the point where... well, where it actually means something because it doesn't mean anything right now.

          By your backwards-rationalization, I bet it must have also been good for US consumers that the iPhone was available exclusively to AT&T for so long. It's not like the carrier you have and the location you're in would affect the service you're getting in the least.

      • Because once a 4g enabled iPhone is released, it will be introduced as being "revolutionary, the first to implement such technology."

        No, it won't. Apple didn't pretend to be the first to offer 3G either.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Counterpoint: Apple quite shamelessly claimed to have invented cellphone video chat, although it had been established in Europe for so long that it had become a vestigial feature on almost every phone.

          • by jandrese (485)
            Not exactly, Apple's claim was that they were the first to offer video chat that people would actually use.

            The weird thing is, I never thought I would use Facetime, but because it uses WiFi and doesn't come out of my minutes, I've actually used it a fair bit now. Plus my (2 year old) son loves to see my face when I call. I've never used video teleconferencing before on any platform because it was far too much effort to set up on both ends, but with Facetime all you need is to be near your computer or yo
            • by repvik (96666)

              Not exactly, Apple's claim was that they were the first to offer video chat that people would actually use.

              More than once? I've never met anyone that actually uses video chat. Not even iOS users.

              • by jandrese (485)
                I use it to call my wife from work, typically about once a day (when I'm getting ready to go home). I also used it to call my parents on Christmas day, but otherwise not too often.
            • by Sockatume (732728)

              Not exactly, Apple's claim was that they were the first to offer video chat that people would actually use.

              We must have been watching a different conference, because they were laying it on pretty thick that The Jetsons was finally here, and that it was nothing anyone had seen before.

        • Apple won't pretend it but people will somehow believe it anyway.
          Just make a pool asking the following question "what was the first 3G phone?". Average joe will answer iPhone 3G.
          Just like if you ask who made the first touch screen smart phone.

      • by mcwop (31034)
        Introducing the 4GS.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Good question. Carriers and other phone manufacturers are keen to say that HSPA+ (which the iPhone supports) is 4G but the article is explicitly about LTE (which the iPhone doesn't have).

    • by trum4n (982031)
      The reference, was not to their 4G capabilities, but their tendency to explode!
    • My iPad and my iPhone get their connections from my Android phone's hotspot. Doesn't everyone's?

  • by koan (80826)

    The other day I saw a live TV streaming app and I had to think "What about the caps?" You stream a show you're going over your cap and someone makes a lot of money.
    Does anyone really think that the spectrum grab will translate to anything other than slightly faster speeds and higher prices?

    • You can still get uncapped mobile data, though only one carrier offers it.

      Why not support that carrier instead of one of the data cappers?

      • by chaboud (231590)

        Because their network isn't as far-reaching, or because they'll eventually screw phone users just like they did 4G wifi hotspot users?

        I do quite a bit of informal checking on multiple carriers (I use Sprint and T-Mobile, my wife uses T-Mobile and AT&T). This weekend, with my brother and his Verizon handset in tow, it became pretty obvious that the big two have rolled out more on the west coast. Verizon was especially impressive. Never without signal. Never without solid data.

        Bless T-Mobile for stick

      • by AJH16 (940784)

        Verizon still gives grandfathered unlimited data. Since I had a smartphone prior to the limits and throttling, I still get unlimited, unthrottled bandwidth on my Galaxy Nexus.

    • by alen (225700)

      in theory LTE allows more users per tower at the same time so we will see the data caps go up. just like minutes went up over time

      2001 i had 400 minutes and they were used no matter who i called except for nights and weekends
      2012 all my calls to AT&T numbers are free any time. if i add texting then all my calls to any cell in the USA is free any time

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        I remember when there were no datacaps. It seems things are getting MORE restrictive, not less.

        I also remember when my carrier gave me unlimited texting for only $15. They phased-out that plan (Texter's Delight) and replaced it with a new one at $25 a month for only 5 GB data. So service is going down and prices going up.

        • by jandrese (485)
          Holy crap, 5GB of texts is 33,554,432 messages a month. If that's not "effectively unlimited" then I don't know what in the world you are doing with your phone (data over SMS?).
          • Hmm. only about 1118481 per day (30 day month) ... why, that's less than 13 messages per second! How will I live? Oh, noooooss!

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>>>5 GB data.
            >>
            >>Holy crap, 5GB of texts is 33,554,432 messages

            Somebody can't read.

        • by alen (225700)

          i remember the days of a lot of data phones being pay per Kb

    • by mrjatsun (543322)

      Exactly! Who are all these people running out to get LTE so they can max out their monthly data allowance in 20 minutes of their very first day using the thing. What are people excited about?

      • by AJH16 (940784)

        Those who were smart enough to get themselves grandfathered in with unlimited data before shit hit the fan. I say this as I happily hold my Verizon 4G Galaxy Nexus with unlimited 4G data (no throttling either) in my hand.

        • Only problem with this is that it still costs too much. I'm on an old plan, thinking of upgrading but I'm not sure I want to be locked into that cost level - IIRC $80/month?

          • by AJH16 (940784)

            No, I pay $30 a month for data, the same as my previous unlimited data plan. There was absolutely no change in my service when I upgraded. Just make sure to double check with the person in the store when you upgrade to verify they aren't changing it.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Spectrum grab, the reality of history would indicate that the only real reason corporations are doing this is to drive out players and establish a monopoly in the event that fails either a duopoly or a collusive cartel.

      Here's betting once the spectrum consolidation has ended, prices will go up, caps will shrink and excess charges will be buried in the fine print of every phone contract.

    • Just like you, I once forgot that WiFi exists...

  • Dear Carriers, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sootman (158191) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:49PM (#38792945) Homepage Journal

    Your data networks are fast enough. Now, please stop charging out the ass for them.

    Thanks,
    Everyone

  • Stop calling it 4G (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ruiner13 (527499) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:50PM (#38792951) Homepage
    It isn't 4G, per the standard that was previously established for it [wikipedia.org]. Quote:

    In 2009, the ITU-R organization specified the IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) requirements for 4G standards, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).

    So... who is getting between 100Mbit/sec and 1Gbit/sec? Anyone? Anyone?

    • No, no - you're confused. You think that the technical meaning should be the ones the marketers use. This service is 4G just like your home bandwidth is unlimited, or your 22/4 "boost" cable modem service can actually provide 22Mbps service on an ongoing basis. If you don't let them lie, they'll have nothing to talk about. ;-)

      • by ruiner13 (527499)
        I'd even take a "burst" anywhere near that. I would never expect sustained speeds like that. About the fastest "burst" I've seen in the mobile world is about 25Mbit/sec. That is only 1/4 what 4G should be able to do while moving.
    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Yeah but these are the US telecom companies. As far as they are concerned, standards can go fuck themselves.
    • by TheSync (5291)

      who is getting between 100Mbit/sec and 1Gbit/sec? Anyone? Anyone?

      Think about the land line to the cell. Do you really think mobile carriers are going to put more than OC-3 (155 Mbps) to a cell? It is all they can do now to get DS-3 (45 Mbps) to cell sites. So maybe the first couple of users get speeds over 10 Mbps, but after you have a handful of people using broadband services, your speed will degrade.

      • by Hodr (219920)

        In my neck of the woods they routinely drop MPLS lines to the towers. Mich higher bandwidth and much lesser cost than what you mentioned.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      It's a 4th Generation service (uses completely different technology than 3G), therefore it's 4G.

      The reason the definition was standardized was to prevent someone from implementing some lame 4th generation service with little or no improvement in speed, and advertising it as 4G. But when every 4G service which has been implemented falls within the same speed range and is short of the definition specified by ITU-R in the standard, then clearly it's the standard which is in error.
  • There's an FCC plan being pushed by the Wireless companies to grab all channels 25 and up.

    I enjoy being able to watch 40+ channels over-the-air, without having to pay Comsucks ~$70 a month. I have no desire to see that option taken-away.

    • by kb7oeb (543726)
      I think more people watch OTA than it gets credit for
      • by mcwop (31034)
        A lot of people used to use buggy whips too. OTA will die eventually. Maybe the model is download/watch my show free on the internet - like Amazon's whispernet - and the bandwidth is free in return for your data.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          If they phase-out broadcast, then yes you're right, because local stations will have no choice but to transmit their news/weather/drama programs over the internet.

          But that means you'd have to pay 70+ a month to access it (through Comcast, Verizon, or other). I oppose any phase-out of Free TV that replaces it with paid tv.

          • by mcwop (31034)
            Not necessarily. Amazon;s whispernet lets you use 3G wireless free to download stuff you buy. There is no free lunch, you will have to give something up, watch an ad, free sub. But you do not necessarily need to have a sub. In fact, the governmnet could allocate part of the spectrum to public free wireless, and let people figure out ways to make it work - PBSg.
        • by prshaw (712950)

          Replacing OTA with internet downloads will only be an option once everyone has an internet connection cabable of doing it.
          Someday that will be the case, but it will not be any time soon. I still know a few people who can only get dialup internet today, and I do not have a cable option for my house (not even for tv).

      • by letsief (1053922)

        Sure, but how many of those people are watching the major networks? You don't even need 25 digital channels to provide those.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>Sure, but how many of those people are watching the major networks? You don't even need 25 digital channels to provide those.
          >>>

          The major networks are still the most-watched channels on TV, but 5-to-1.

          I live in the northeast. There are multiple overlapping cities and a total of 45 channels (7 through 51). Every single one of them is occupied by a broadcast TV station. (And each statiion broadcasts 2-3 programs each or about 120 programs.)

          It would be impossible to squeeze all those st

    • I worry about this too. Not that I personally use it, but for a great many people (mostly poor and rural) OTA television is the only source of news and entertainment they have. They dont deserve to have public airwaves taken from them so that verizon makess more money, or so people in metro areas can download transformers in HD on their phone.

      That being said this spectrum would be better off as data. The best solution would be to use it to offer free internet for personal use for the poor, as it has exce

    • by letsief (1053922)

      25 channels seems like plenty to me. There's only 5-8 major networks (depending on what you consider 'major'), whose affiliates are collectively probably responsible for 98% of what is watched. A single digital channel can carry two HD channels, so 25 channels can carry up to 50 HD programs. That would push the smaller guys out, sure, but I think it is worth it to free up some spectrum for wireless Internet. There's only so much spectrum that is suitable for wireless Internet- it basically needs to be b

      • by TheSync (5291)

        A single digital channel can carry two HD channels

        Correction: A single 19.39 Mbps DTV RF channel can carry one MPEG-2 HD video service that looks good, or two MPEG-2 HD video services that look crappy :)

        • by letsief (1053922)

          You're right- I was wrong. I was thinking about QAM, where each QAM channel can support two HD channels (or 3, if you recompress the video like Comcast). I knew the bandwidth was essentially the same between QAM and ATSC channels, but I forgot that all the error correction drops the effective data rate from 36mbps to 19mbps. 19 would be enough to carry two H.264-compressed HD streams (which aren't widely used or supported for ATSC), but its not enough for 2 mpeg-2 streams.

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