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October 07, 2010

Vermont Will Be on LTE Leading Edge

Vermont and other rural areas usually trail the rest of the nation when communication technology is rolled out. Not going to happen this time! The fourth generation (4G) of cellular data technology, LTE for Long Term Evolution, will be rolled out in Vermont at the same time that it is first deployed in major US cities and airports.

An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) describes plans by Verizon Wireless for its US deployment of LTE:

"The carrier expects to launch its LTE network in 38 markets by year end, including major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston. Mr. McAdam [Verizon Communications Inc. President] said he expects to cover two-thirds of the U.S. population in the next 18 months, with full nationwide coverage by 2013.

"Each market will get at least 70% coverage, and other select locations, such as 62 airports, will also get access to the network early."

What the article doesn't say is that, thanks to $116 million of competitive stimulus funding and its own foresight in obtaining the necessary wireless radio spectrum, Vermont Telephone Company (VTEL) will be rolling out LTE coverage in at least those areas of Vermont which don't have adequate broadband coverage today. First service in Vermont should be available next year and the project is scheduled to be completed in three years. Chances are that otherwise much of Vermont would have been in the 30% of areas that don't get initial coverage.

LTE is the technology that major cellular carriers worldwide have agreed on as their fourth generation standard. It is so new that some people worry that there won't be devices available to use it. Indeed, if it were rolled out first just in Vermont, those devices wouldn't be available since they have to be produced in huge quantities to be affordable. Here's what McAdam has to say about device availability:

"…it won't just be wireless laptop cards."

"…there will be half a dozen smartphones and tablets compatible with LTE on display at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in January and that they would hit stores in the first half of next year."

Of course you would expect him to be optimistic. We may have teething pains with new technology; but that's a lot better than not having it available until it's on the edge of obsolescence.

Ironically, there's an editorial in The Rutland Herald (subscription also required) called Overstating the e-State which goes on it at great length to explain that one should not expect a third generation (3G) buildout to provide adequate coverage in Vermont. The editorialist apparently does not realize that the VTEL project is all 4G – just what the Herald thinks we need and just what we're going to get.

"The minimum expectation is the equivalent of a 3G or third-generation network. Without getting into kilobytes per second, promised versus real-world transmission speeds and all that, 3G allows good Internet connections, voice communication and routine browsing. It won't support live streams for extended periods unless you're willing to see them on tiny screens with lots of pauses and signal dropouts. So movie trailers are a reasonable expectation; the latest James Cameron epic in its entirety is not.

"Fourth-generation or 4G networks offer that promise, at least for now. A real-world test by Consumer Reports this spring returned speed between two and five times as fast as 3G …. But a community with 4G is at the cutting edge of today's retail technology."

The cutting edge is where Vermont belongs.

More on the VTEL project is at WOW.

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