Verizon Wireless readies LTE gear for businesses

Videoconferencing for field techs, others shows promise

CHICAGO -- Verizon Wireless and its partners will release new LTE devices for businesses and consumers in the first quarter of 2011 to take advantage of faster wireless speeds, including portable two-way videoconferencing gear that can be used by repairmen in the field to shorten repair times, a Verizon official said today.

Other gear under development includes in-store wireless kiosks that will match a shopper in a home repair store via videoconference with an expert, such as a retired plumber. Videoconferencing is especially dependent on faster bandwidth, and LTE is expected to provide average downlink speeds of 5Mbit/sec. to 12Mbit/sec., about 10 times what is available today over 3G networks, including Verizon's CDMA network.

Verizon is also working on in-car information and entertainment applications that work over LTE, as well as chip modules that can be used for wirelessly monitoring performance of washing machines and refrigerators, said Mike Lanman, Verizon Wireless president of government and enterprise markets.

Many of the products will be ready early in 2011, after Verizon launches LTE in 38 cities before the end of the year, he said.

Lanman said in an interview that Verizon queried 400 CIOs in the last 18 months, including 23 in the past two weeks, about their business needs with faster LTE wireless. Their insights have helped drive many of the applications and services that Verizon will deploy, he said.

"I can't believe how many CIOS are lit up by [wireless] videoconferencing," Lanman said. "We will have 4G devices with two-way video on them early next year."

Even Clearwire, a seller of faster 4G wireless over WiMax, which competes with LTE, has seen the value of faster wireless for videoconferencing. "We've been talking about [wireless] videoconferencing for 30 years, but it's actually happening," said Michael Sievert, Clearwire's chief commercial officer in comments in a presentation at 4G World.

Citing the example of the field service technicians using videoconferencing over LTE, Lanman said CIOs have seen the value of reduced downtime when a technician arrives to work on a complex piece of equipment and needs to consult with a more senior repairman. A wireless videoconferencing link would shorten that consultation to minutes, instead of hours or days.

Lanman said the advantage of having a technician "go completely virtual" would allow a company to get rid of a branch office, meaning a technician would check in wirelessly or get video training on new LTE equipment "where they are virtually anywhere."

Videoconferencing over LTE will not only help field technicians but will also help shoppers at kiosks in stores and patients who need to consult with medical specialists, Lanman said.

At least six of the CIOs that Verizon has met with are planning ways to reduce office space for sales personnel who move from city to city and can benefit from faster 4G wireless. Lanman said those CIOs are seeing if they can reduce office space from one office for each worker to one office for three workers who alternate uses. Wireless can help by making a laptop docking station or desktop phone in an office unnecessary.

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