SAN DIEGO -- The majority of Verizon Wireless's data traffic will soon be traveling over the company's new 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer said at a press conference at the CTIA's MobileCon tradeshow here Tuesday.
Palmer talked up the carrier's progress on deploying its LTE network. The company announced it would be deploying its 400th market next week and is two months ahead of schedule on its 4G LTE roll-out.
She also noted that 35 percent of Verizon's mobile data traffic traversed the 4G LTE network in September. And she said that the company expects to see the majority of its data traffic to use this network very soon.
"It won't be long before the majority of our traffic will go over LTE," she said.
She added that it took Verizon twice as long to get to that kind of volume of traffic on its 3G network when the company was deploying 3G EV-DO service.
Verizon has been aggressively deploying LTE since late 2010, and its hard work is paying off. It's way ahead of competitors AT&T and Sprint Nextel, which have only begun their deployments. And the company is likely to see another surge in LTE traffic growth with the sale of the iPhone 5, Apple's first LTE-enabled smartphone.
"The iPhone 5 will be another acceleration point for LTE," said Roger Entner, an analyst for Recon Analytics.
Entner said that Verizon is expected to sell millions of iPhone 5s over the next several months, which will help feed the company's network with more LTE traffic.
"Now the only thing that Verizon sells smartphone-wise will be LTE," he said. "About 60-70 percent of the company's device sales are smartphones. And those are now all LTE."
Palmer said that the company will have 4G LTE in place everywhere it currently has 3G service by the end of next year. And as it winds down the initial build out of the network, the company will be concentrating on adding more capacity to the network. This includes adding additional wireless spectrum in dense urban areas. Verizon is planning to use Advanced Wireless Services or AWS spectrum that it just bought from the SpectrumCo. cable consortium to add depth to the network.
Verizon expects to start using the AWS spectrum by the middle of 2013 with additional deployments through the end of next year. Devices that also support AWS 4G LTE will start showing up on Verizon's network next year, she added.
"The strategy will be to take our existing cell sites and add AWS to those sites," she said. "We'll start to see deployment in mid-to-late next year. We're already working on technical trials and we'll have devices that can take advantage of AWS available next year."
Palmer also said that Verizon will start looking at the next generation of LTE technology called LTE Advancto help add capacity to the network, but she gave no indication when upgrades to this technology will begin.
"As we look at the growth of data in the industry, and we build out our network, we have to turn our attention to capacity in addition to coverage," she said. "And LTE Advanced is one tool in the tool box."