Verizon 4G LTE Growth Leading to Data Pooling, WiFi Where Necessary

Verizon executives are sharing details about future plans, from data pooling on Family plans to relying on WiFi where it most makes sense.

Verizon executives have been sharing details about the carrier's plans for its future, as the carrier continues to expand its 4G Long-Term Evolution network.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo suggested Verizon might eventually offer data pooling on its Family plans. Just as carriers have sold business customers large pools of voice minutes that a number of employee devices can dip into, members of a family could sip from a shared data source.

"At some point, you are going to have mega-plans [for data], and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family," Shammo said at the Summit, according to a May 21 report from PC World.

As Verizon grows the number of data-devouring smartphones and tablets it supports-during the first quarter alone it added 906,000 wireless subscribers and activated more than 2 million Apple iPhones-officials continue to fiddle with pricing plans and offerings and to grow its 4G network, which eventually will extend to rural areas where it currently doesn't support 3G.

Verizon CTO Tony Melone, at the TIA conference in Grapevine, Texas, also shared that Verizon plans to rely more heavily on WiFi, offering it to consumers at home and in large venues such as stadiums.

"We won't use it ubiquitously, to cover up flaws and capacity limitations," Melone said, according to a May 19 Gigaom report. "In my mind, it's much more effective to invest in your 3G and 4G environments than rely on WiFi."

The remark could easily be interpreted as a dig against AT&T, which last year launched a WiFi hotzones program to complement (supplement?) its 3G network. Hotzone areas include several locations around Manhattan and San Francisco, where iPhone owners are thick on the ground and AT&T has struggled with dropped calls and low service areas.

Racing to catch up to Verizon's 4G timeline and support its own growing numbers of data users, AT&T has made a $39 billion bid to purchase competitor T-Mobile. While this would give it the wireless spectrum it needs to extend its network to 97-plus percent of the nation, it would also put more than 80 percent of the U.S. wireless market in the control of AT&T and Verizon-supremely hindering competition, critics argue, which could ultimately hurt consumers in the wallet and slow innovation.

At the Texas event, according to Gigaom, Melone added that by 2013, reliance on 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) might be ubiquitous enough that Verizon can begin shipping devices without 3G radios. (No worries-no one's getting kicked off of 3G, and neither is Verizon having a 3G capacity problem, Melone insisted.)

On May 23, Verizon announced two new 4G deployment areas-Springfield and Dayton, Ohio, and Harrisburg, Pa.-both of which are scheduled to go live June 16.

"As the first wireless company in the world to broadly deploy game-changing 4G LTE technology, Verizon Wireless is committed to building its 4G network with the same performance and reliability for which it has long been recognized," Verizon said in a statement. "Verizon Wireless' consistent focus on reliability is based on rigid engineering standards and a disciplined deployment approach year after year. The company's 700MHz spectrum gives Verizon Wireless specific advantages with 4G, including a contiguous, nationwide network license."

This summer, Verizon will introduce new, usage-based pricing for its LTE service, Melone added, though he wouldn't confirm whether this would include data pooling.