Verizon doubles LTE speeds in Tennessee as new wireless spectrum comes online

Verizon doubles LTE speeds in Tennessee as new wireless spectrum comes online

May 20th, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.


• LTE - Long Term Evolution, the most popular type of 4G speed for cell phones.

• AWS - Advanced Wireless Spectrum, a high-frequency portion of the radio band used by cell phones to communicate.

• XLTE - Verizon's term for its 1700/2100MHz AWS band to help customers understand the faster speeds available with higher frequencies.

• 4G - the fourth generation of smartphone speeds, includes HSPA+, LTE and XLTE. Sprint calls its next-gen LTE "Spark."

• HSPA+ - Evolved High Speed Packet Access, sometimes referred to as 3.5G

Verizon is doubling 4G LTE speeds for many customers in most Tennessee markets, including Chattanooga and Cleveland, as it unveils an upgraded cellular network built using a chunk of wireless spectrum it bought in 2012.

The cellular carrier bought a giant piece of the AWS spectrum for $3.6 billion in 2012, and has spent the last two years upgrading base stations and cell phone towers to allow consumers access to the higher-frequency band.

"Tennessee customers are especially mobile and enthusiastic users of 4G LTE - sharing photos and video, downloading large files, and staying connected to enjoy a great wireless experience," said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless regional president. "We have a clear competitive advantage with XLTE and expect to stay well ahead of demand to deliver these 4G LTE services better, faster and to even more customers."

Not all phones are ready for XLTE, as Verizon's marketing department refers to the high-frequency AWS band. The iPhone 5s and 5c will pick up XLTE, while the iPhone 5 will be stuck in regular LTE mode. Owners of the Galaxy S5, S4 and Galaxy Note 3 will see increased speeds right away, while Galaxy S3 owners will need to upgrade to experience the difference.

Like all higher-frequency bands, the AWS band is capable of transmitting more data to more people over shorter, which is perfect for stadiums and densely populated cities. As more customers take advantage of the increased bandwidth on the 1700MHz band, it will free up space on Verizon's existing, lower-frequency 700MHZ spectrum. That could speed up access for everyone, even for customers with older phones.

T-Mobile has also purchased a block of the AWS band, which it combined with AWS spectrum is received after a failed merger with AT&T to upgrade its own LTE network in the U.S.

The FCC is currently preparing for yet another wireless spectrum auction, which will allow TV broadcasters to sell more unused spectrum to cell phone carriers, who are hungry for increased bandwidth to satisfy data-hungry customers. The FCC regulates such sales, as wireless spectrum is a relatively limited resource and the agency doesn't want TV signals to interfere with wireless routers, for instance.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or with tips and documents.