Verizon's 'can you hear me now' fleet testing 4G

Almost all test vehicles are equipped to test carriers' 4G networks for performance and coverage

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, 4G, Verizon Wireless

Shawn Bowers, a full-time network tester for Verizon Wireless, can use this laptop to remotely control another laptop in the back of his truck that runs tests of carrier networks.

IDG News Service

Verizon Wireless has equipped almost all of its fleet of test vehicles with 4G (fourth-generation) devices to test all the major U.S. 4G networks for speed and coverage.

The carrier has about 100 such vehicles around the U.S., and testers drive about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) per year while conducting ongoing network tests, said Tom Badger, director of network system performance. Verizon commercially launched its own 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network last December, and it now covers more than 160 cities. Some Verizon trucks have already been testing 4G networks, but the carrier is now set to study those networks across the country, along with ongoing 3G testing.

This Chevrolet Tahoe, based in Southern California, is one of about 100 around the U.S. that Verizon Wireless uses full time to test its own network and those of other mobile operators.

IDG News Service

Verizon's archrival, AT&T, started commercial service on its own LTE network in five cities just last month. MetroPCS began rolling out LTE last September. Though Verizon didn't weigh in on the heated issue of what qualifies as a 4G network, Badger said the trucks test 4G and 3G networks including those of AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel, Clearwire (Sprint's 4G partner), MetroPCS and Cricket, depending on which operators offer service in the local market.

On the sidelines of the CTIA Wireless Enterprise & Applications trade show in San Diego on Wednesday, Verizon showed off a Chevrolet Tahoe truck used to test networks in the San Diego area and nearby Imperial Valley. There are five test vehicles in the Southern California region, stretching from Ventura in the north to Mexico in the south, Verizon said. Those vehicles travel about 7,400 miles (11,909 kilometers) each quarter, and along the way make the equivalent of 29,000 voice calls and 142,000 data calls.

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