Last week we had the opportunity to speak with Ken Muche, Director of Public Relations for Verizon Wireless in Southern California, about what Verizon is offering in terms of 4G Wireless networking and WiFi.
Cinema Without Borders: The last time we spoke was about a year and a half ago and a lot can happen in that span. What’s new for Verizon in media and entertainment?
Ken Muche: Well since we last spoke, we have expanded our 4G LTE network immensely. It is important to remember that our 4G network is ten times faster than our 3G network, so that really allows you to do live streaming video with a connector without experiencing any lag in terms of voice audio synch. Right now, one of the things people will notice if they are looking at a map or traveling a lot, is that we have over 190 markets covered in the United States with 4G LTE—that is more than 14 million people that are covered today. So we have made tremendous progress on that front. Here in southern California, we have more that 80% of the population covered with 4G LTE. So most places you go, you will get 4G LTE coverage in Southern California, which is the single largest 4G LTE market in the world. That is significant because LTE is now the global standard for 4G wireless networks. Most of the worlds wireless carriers are moving to LTE, so with that you’ll have a greater ability to take your Verizon wireless phone overseas and to use it overseas seamlessly, because it will be the same technology that will be used here and around much of the world. Like I said, 85% of the world’s carriers will be using LTE, so here in the United States, we’re really leading the way. We really have this cutting edge technology that people are using in new and innovative ways. We knew it had great potential because it is just so much faster than prior connections. It uses the airwaves that it operates on in a more efficient and cost effective way that it allows for all kinds of things that you could never do on 3G. What that means for the developers of software is that they now have more room for creativity and new ideas. That really creates this organic growth in how this industry and company and individuals shape 4G LTE, and we back that up not just with these innovations centers in San Jose, but also we focus it around all of our software. Verizon will continue to expand its network; here we are in 2012 and by the end of 2013 the size of our 4G LTE network will be the size of our 3G network today, so we are going to cover the same number of people coast to coast. We will focus continually on expanding that network and improving it any way we can and we will continue to be leaders in that area. Our focus will be supporting this eco-system of standards of software innovations with hardware innovations and really working with partners around the globe to set some of those standards, and this technology will become more global as more carriers launch it around the world. Today, LTE has been adopted by European countries but has not been launched there yet, so there is some talk about how carriers in those different countries will work to carry out their LTE network, so it will be done differently across the world. How it is launched, when it is launched, how it is financed—all will be done differently in different times, so we’ll see how that will roll out across the world. Verizon Wireless is just focused on completing our build out until 2013, being the best and delivering the best customer experience.
CWB: One interesting experience that we had was with testing devices in real life scenarios to see how they really work. Our experience showed that the 4G from Verizon was faster for us when we were trying it on our tablets and phones than the 4G that we are getting from the other countries. When discussing this with filmmakers, they were of the opinion that 4G should be consistent, and there should not be any difference in speed between carriers and nations. Can you speak to the variations in connection speeds and how this occurs?
KM: Well, there are a few different ways to look at it. It is a competitive industry; different carriers use different technologies, and all of the carriers in the United States have said that they will move to LTE, but people build the networks and how you build them and engineer them is very important. That is what separates you from the competition. Today, for example, 3G on Verizon wireless uses a technology called CDMA, but we are not the only ones. The other carriers use CDMA for 3G, but we know our network is more reliable than their same technology; we just build it at differently on the back end, at the switches that control the cell sites—there is a lot of engineering and people who try to make it the best and make us the most reliable on 3G. So, for example, the technologies are different, but customer experience is better in the end. Just because a carrier has 3G or 4G does not mean that the experience will be the same, it is because of the people who build the networks; we are really proud of our network teams for being the top in the industry. The other piece to this is when you think about what 4G is and what qualifies as the 4th generation. The definition of 4G is set by an international standards body. Initially, they had one set of standards, but over a course of several months they changed those standards to allow a variety of technologies to qualify as 4G. So you see companies in the United States saying they are 4G, when the reality is that our 4G LTE service is faster that those other technologies. These other technologies are being marketed as 4G, but the experience on the Verizon wireless 4G network is much, much faster. Now having said that, other carriers have said that they have launched or will launch LTE here in the United States, and you have to remember not just that it is people building network (and we know that we have the best network team), but there are a couple of fundamentals that go into building out a network and one of the fundamentals is building the technology, as I said. Another fundamental is what we call spectrum; that’s the airwaves that the technology runs on. When it comes to buying airwaves for these 4G networks that we were going to build, we bought the most spectrums in the most places. We also bought the faster type of spectrum for the 4G network—there are a good number of types you can purchase at auction along with actual licenses that you can use for this federal spectrum, just to clarify. We were participating in an FCC auction to use these and we bought the fastest type, coast-to-coast, and the other carriers cannot make that claim. The other part is how much you buy, which is just as important. You can build a freeway that has one lane, but you are only going to get so many cars on it and you are going to have a traffic jam and the speeds slow down. You can go from one lane to four lanes, and you can put more cars on there and those average speeds increase. When you think about how much spectrum we purchased—we purchased more than any of our competitors—we know that our customers will have the fastest speeds. So, you have to combine the technology with a lot of capacity for the airwaves to make it a good customer experience, and we have bought the right technology, we bought the right type of airwaves, and we bought more of it to ensure that our customers will have the fastest speeds on-average versus the competition. Even though our competitors are moving towards LTE at different rates, we have already been there for a while. With the way we engineer 4G LTE and how we have fought for extra capacity harder than our competitors, we are confident that ours will remain the fastest.
CWB: With recently released iPad and its 4G accessibility, what can new iPad users hope for in terms of film and other video streaming?
KM: We already have a great customer base using our 4G LTE with their tablets to watch videos, and many of them do watch short videos. Some stream films and we get very good feedback from our customers when it comes to streaming videos and the download of movies. We know our customers really appreciate that, whenever you see a good or services, it is not all about price; people should not settle, they should make sure that they get what they pay for because, at the end of the day, we know that we have the best value in the industry. When you think about our 4G LTE network and how it consistently delivers the fastest speeds, that means that new iPad users will enjoy a much better experience when they are watching videos on 4G, and that is real value. When you go cheaper, you get what you pay for really. At the end of the day, your tablet or your smart-phone is only really as good as the network it is on.
CWB: For our readers who purchased Verizon’s MiFi, do you think they should go with the new iPad for connectivity, or will the MiFi devices work seamlessly?
KM: We are calling our MiFi mobile hotspots “Jetpacks” now, and it’s important to note that you can connect multiple devices to our 4G LTE Jetpacks. The new iPad has its own ability to serve as a hotspot in a similar fashion using that 4G LTE network to connect multiple devices, so it really depends and it is an individual customer decision. If you are a small business owner, for example, and you have expanded from four to eight employees over the last year, do you want to buy an additional 4G LTE Jetpack or do you want to buy a tablet that has 4G LTE for your workforce. Usually a tablet roams with the person that uses it, so in an office environment maybe a Jetpack might be the best way rather than another tablet so they can get a fast connection in the office. Maybe individual consumers might want to manage the battery life of their devices by buying a 4G LTE Jetpack and still have the flexibility with the old 4G LTE devices, so if they are going on a camping trip or some kind of vacation, and they are traveling a distance where they might want to save the battery on their tablet and just turn on a 4G LTE jetpack in the car so that their children or spouse can get to the internet that way. There are so many different circumstances out there that it really comes down to individual purchasing decision of the customer.