What’s Verizon Wireless got against Rhode Island?

March 25th, 2011 at 11:59 am by under General Talk

Alabama. Idaho. Mississippi. Oklahoma. Utah. West Virginia.

What do all these places have in common? Verizon has promised them they’ll have 4G wireless service by the end of this year – unlike Rhode Island.

Verizon’s long list of places that will get 4G in 2011 includes two more cities in Massachusetts – Boston has had it since December – and three in Connecticut. But Rhode Island is conspicuously absent.

That’s bad news for local gadget geeks salivating over the carrier’s new Thunderbolt 4G phone, which got a wet kiss from Walt Mossberg in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Did we do something wrong?

Nothing personal, Verizon Wireless spokesman Michael Murphy said.

“As you know we’re in the process of building a nationwide 4G LTE network that when completed will provide coverage everywhere our 3G network is currently available,” Murphy told me in an e-mail. “But it doesn’t happen overnight. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of planning and work underway behind the scenes preparing markets for eventual activation.”

Sure, but Verizon has already told nearly 150 U.S. cities they either have 4G LTE or will get it later this year. Why haven’t we made the list? After all, Verizon’s LTE research facility is located less than an hour away from Providence in Waltham, Mass.

“Being in the news business I’m sure you can appreciate that we too are in a competitive industry and that Rhode Island is a highly competitive market,” Murphy said – a hint, perhaps, that the state could get 4G sooner than the carrier’s list would lead you to believe.

“Bottom line,” he continued, “Rhode Island is an important market to Verizon Wireless, and when we’re ready to share our local LTE plans with customers, and tip our hand to the competition, Ted Nesi and WPRI will be among the first to know.”

Darn tootin’.

(photo: Verizon Wireless)

Verizon to launch 4G Sunday – but not here (yet)

December 1st, 2010 at 1:57 pm by under General Talk

Verizon Wireless will debut its “fourth-generation,” or 4G, network on Sunday in 38 markets around the country, including “Metro Boston,” an area that doesn’t include Rhode Island or some of Southeastern Massachusetts.

Spokesman Michael Murphy told me the 4G network launching Sunday “will extend approximately as far west as Framingham, as far north as Lawrence and as far south as Brockton.” (He also said customers are going to love Verizon’s 4G network, which I kind of expected him to say.) The company says it has “an aggressive rollout plan” so it may not be long before other areas get added. (Clearwire and Sprint launched 4G here earlier this year.)

The best rundown of the 4G announcement I’ve seen comes from CNET’s Maggie Reardon, who has covered the wireless industry for years. Particularly interesting is her explanation of what “4G” actually is – and isn’t:

But truth be told, neither Verizon nor Sprint nor T-Mobile have a real 4G wireless network today. Still, Verizon Wireless, which uses LTE; T-Mobile USA, which is using a version of its current 3G technology called HSPA+; and Sprint Nextel, which uses WiMax, all claim to have 4G wireless networks.

While current versions of WiMax and LTE are typically referred to in the industry as “4G,” they do not actually meet the International Telecommunication Union’s strict definition. To be legitimately considered a 4G technology by the ITU, the network technology is required by the agency to be IP-based and use orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). The other main requirement is that the technology needs to support peak download speeds of 100Mbps. The current flavors of LTE and WiMax are not that fast. And neither is the technology T-Mobile is using, which is called HSPA+.

Tony Melone, CTO of Verizon Wireless, said in an interview with CNET following a press conference that it doesn’t matter whether the ITU calls its technology 4G or not, because wireless subscribers will notice the generational shift in performance.

“It doesn’t matter what we label the network,” he said. “In our subscribers’ daily lives this technology will change what people can do. There’s no question about that. I think even the ITU would agree this is a dramatic leap in performance.”

That was quick – 4G hits RI today

September 1st, 2010 at 12:01 am by under General Talk

You heard it here first, folks:

Sprint Nextel and partner Clearwire Corp. said Wednesday they will begin offering their fourth-generation wireless network in the Providence area this week.

Sprint said it will start offering 4G service to its cell phone and wireless Internet customers on Sunday. The company began selling the U.S. market’s first 4G cell phone, the HTC Evo, in July.

Clearwire sells wireless Internet service – but not phone service – under its own brands, Clear and Rover, separately from Sprint. Clearwire said its service is available starting today.

More here. And contrary to my speculation yesterday, Sprint and Clearwire are launching their new network here simultaneously, give or take a few days. (For the record, when I started reporting on this Monday I didn’t know the 4G announcement was only two days away. But the two companies did give me a head’s-up after I started asking nosy questions.)

Get ready for 4G, Rhode Island

August 31st, 2010 at 11:15 am by under General Talk

Sprint's HTC EVO 4G

Sprint and Clearwire are putting the finishing touches on their 4G wireless network in the Providence area, as I reported today over on the main site:

In recent months, the two companies have sought approvals from cities and towns including North Providence and West Warwick to put up new wireless antennas or add to existing ones, according to municipal records.

Clearwire has also posted a job opening on RINexus.com, the info-tech and digital media website run by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, saying “Providence is poised to be the next market to launch” the 4G network. …

Clearwire sells wireless Internet service under its own brands, Clear and Rover, separately from Sprint’s cell phone service. It will compete with wired broadband services sold by Cox and Verizon, as well as other wireless broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T.

One thing that’s a little confusing about all this is that even though Sprint and Clearwire share the same 4G network (they’ve been building it together since merging their separate 4G projects in 2008), that doesn’t mean they will launch at the same time.

Sprint sells regular old phone service as well as wireless broadband Internet; Clearwire sells its own wireless broadband Internet service under the brands Clear and Rover. (So the partners are actually competitors when it comes to selling high-speed wireless Internet service.) We’re likely to see Clearwire launch Clear and Rover here first, with Sprint following after awhile in making 4G available to its own customers.

In practice, that means it may be a bit longer before Sprint’s new Evo phone from HTC – the first 4G phone released in the U.S. – will be able to run on the fourth-generation network around here. For more on those issues, check out Rich Jaroslovsky’s Bloomberg review from June. (Verizon plans to start rolling out 4G later this year in select markets, with AT&T getting started next year.)

And if you really want to geek out about 4G, you can dig into this primer that Ars Technica published a few months ago.

(image credit: Sprint Nextel)