Verizon has been feeling the heat in New York City and other major markets where AT&T offers much faster 4G speeds. But it looks like Big Red just leapfrogged Ma Bell on the third anniversary of its initial LTE rollout. Verizon has tripled its capacity via the AWS spectrum the carrier acquired from the cable providers. Users could see peak speeds as high as 80 Mbps.
The emphasis, though, is not on throughput but on the ability to support multiple connections at once in congested areas. According to Gigaom, which interviewed Verizon's chief network officer, the provider's claimed speeds will not go above 5 to 12 Mbps, even though customers will likely see much faster data rates.
Thus far, Verizon has tripled its capacity in such cities as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Washington D.C. Other markets, such as downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles, have received a 150-percent boost.
Not every smartphone will be able to take advantage of this 4G LTE upgrade. In fact, only 15 percent of Verizon's devices are AWS capable, including the iPhone 5s and 5c, the Galaxy S4 and the Motorola Droid Maxx, Mini and Ultra. The Galaxy Note 3 will get an over-the-air update. Verizon says about one-fifth of its devices will be able to enjoy its increased capacity by the end of the year, which will also include mobile hotspots and tablets.
It's not as if other carriers are standing still. Sprint, for example, recently launched its Spark service, enabling a number of tri-band phones to achieve download speeds up to 50 Mbps. In our testing around New York City, Sprint doubled the speeds of AT&T. Meanwhile, T-Mobile says it has doubled its capacity, and AT&T is looking to soup up its already strong network by mining its existing spectrum from its 2G and 3G networks.
In the coming days we'll be testing Verizon's upgraded network to see just how much improved it is, but overall we're glad to see the carrier make strides to keep up with our insatiable data appetites.