I recently had the opportunity to interview Harry Martin, Regional Director of Technologies, and meet Randy Madden, Network Drive Tester for Verizon Wireless. We discussed the past, present and future of Verizon Wireless, how it operates, what it does to stay operating, and how it plans to improve.
Verizon’s 4G network was launched aggressively at the end of 2010 and was rolled out by the end of 2013. The 4G network currently covers 90% of the US population in over 500 markets. Over 94% of the Philadelphia tri-state region is covered.
Verizon has spent an average of $7 billion on its network since 2000. This goes towards maintenance, new cell sites, additional carriers, new towers, etc. Using the 700MHz spectrum (the lower the better), Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (an encoding technique that allows for more throughput), and 2×2 MIMO antennas, they are able to achieve a conservative average of 12Mbps download and 5Mbps upload.
Because of its broad coverage and fast speeds, Verizon’s 4G has become a lifeline for many industries and individuals including but not limited to: police, emergency rescue, insurance companies, agriculture, pet tracking, and doctors. Most cell sites have a minimum of 8 hours battery backup and over 75% of cell sites have diesel generators in case of power loss. Cell sites are also designed to withstand severe weather. During times of heavy load or immediately following natural disasters, etc, temporary cell towers or cells on wheels are used to maintain the network.
Network drive tester Randy Madden, tests his entire region, over 6,250 driven miles, quarterly for voice and data performance not only for Verizon’s network, but also the other major carriers. When testing voice, Harvard sentences are used to communicate with a third party server back and forth because they contain all frequencies of the human voice. The quality of the transmission, dropped calls, and ability to perform the test amongst other things are all recorded. Currently nation wide their is over a 99% success rate in making calls. When testing data, devices connect to a third party server and download a file, this file is then uploaded back to the server. The ability to make this transmission, the effective throughput for both uploading and downloading, and much more is recorded. All of this testing is done using third party hardware to control numerous phones simultaneously and perform the tests repeatedly throughout the drive test. This third party hardware is connected to a laptop that records and stores all of the data for later viewing by engineers. The equipment is connected to 12 cell antennas and numerous GPS antennas to precisely record the location of the vehicle throughout the test. This data combined with customer feedback is used to determine where cell sites need to be improved or new sites need to be installed.
According to Mr. Martin, Verizon will be increasing capacity, installing more cell sites and increase carriers to existing cell sites in the future. Verizon Wireless proved this by recently announcing that it has purchased spectrum and assets from Cincinnati Bell. This effort will be to increase the existing network but also prepare for Voice Over LTE or VOLTE and the demands it will add to the network. VOLTE will use 4G HD voice which will result in better voice quality and echo cancellation. VOLTE will also allow for the introduction of media into calls such as video calls and the ability to transfer pictures and documents while making a call. Another advantage of VOLTE is the ability to connect to another caller in under two seconds.
After speaking with Harry Martin and meeting Randy Madden, I am confident that Verizon Wireless is making their best efforts at maintaining and improving their network. I look forward to seeing what the future of Verizon Wireless has to offer.
On behalf of GizmoFusion, I would like to thank Harry Martin, Randy Madden, our Verizon Wireless contact person, and Verizon Wireless for allowing the opportunity for the interview and network drive test.