Verizon has begun the process of refarming the 1900Mhz band currently used for CDMA and EV-DO service in 10 selected cities for LTE data access as a long-term trial that will eventually expand nationwide, but not for many years. The first evidence of the spectrum refarming on the PCS band was found this earlier week in Manhattan, NY and Cleveland Ohio. When pressed by the media regarding the refarming, Verizon Wireless’ vice president of network performance Mike Haberman stated that the company isn’t refarming PCS spectrum out of necessity, but as a trial.
According to him, as Verizon is seeing EV-DO data usage across the PCS spectrum rapidly decline, it is moving that spectrum to 4G LTE service in order to stay ahead of its competition. The company did not confirm a timeline for refarming its entire PCS spectrum to LTE, but it stated it expects to operate the CDMA EVDO network on the PCS spectrum through Dec 31, 2019. Verizon further stated selling LTE-only devices would be a possibility in the future, possibly beginning in 2020. When further asked, Haberman said Verizon plans to keep operating its 2G voice network on its 850Mhz spectrum for the foreseeable future with no sunset date.
As Verizon moves its voice and messaging traffic to VoLTE, it will be able to farm its 2G spectrum for LTE service as well. Haberman further pointed out that 2.5 MHz of spectrum is enough to keep a 2G voice network online, leaving enough spectrum that can be reclaimed for LTE service in the future, while also testing carrier aggregation; a feature of LTE-Advanced that will allow Verizon to combine the spectrum of its main LTE network and XLTE overlays together in the short-term for even faster speeds. Haberman expects devices that support carrier aggregation to launch in the U.S. next year, as the chipsets that support it are just now being integrated into current and future smartphones.
AT&T is currently the only US carrier to have rolled out LTE carrier aggregation at the network level in select markets, but has yet to offer devices that support the feature other than a mobile hotspot, while Sprint has not rolled out carrier aggregation on either its main LTE network, or its Spark network, in spite of early reports saying so that were quickly debunked.