Ina Fried

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Verizon Wireless CTO David Small on LTE, Launch of the iPhone

When Verizon Wireless went to launch its first iPhone earlier this year, chief technology officer David Small was pretty confident things were in place.

For months, the company had been working not only on testing the Apple device, but also on upgrading all aspects of its business, from big things such as expanding its network capacity, to details such as refining the process used to assign phone numbers and the one used to activate new devices.

Still, Small covered a lot of ground on launch day, beginning it inside a Verizon retail store before heading back to the company’s “war room” to make sure that the systems were keeping pace with the crush of new activations. Like any good engineer, Small said he had overprepared.

“We were prudent,” Small said on Thursday during an interview near the company’s Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters.

In addition to reminiscing about the past, Small also talked about Verizon’s future, including the rollout of its LTE-based 4G network, as well as how Verizon plans to distinguish itself now that AT&T is launching an LTE network of its own.

On that last point, Verizon’s strongest selling point will be the depth of its network, having already deployed it in well over 100 markets, with plans to hit 175 by year’s end. AT&T is expected to point out that it has not only an LTE-based 4G network but also an HSPA+ network that is far faster than the 3G speed Verizon offers in locations where it has yet to deploy LTE.

Small counters by touting the reliability of Verizon’s 3G network, as well as the head start that Verizon has with LTE. Most people, Small said, will have a 100 percent LTE experience, and even those who don’t “will fall back to the most reliable network that is out there.”

“I think the average consumer will prefer and value the quality and reliability of our network,” Small said.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Small believes the industry will be able to pull together and eventually be able to offer LTE cellphones that work across different carriers, even if today’s devices lack such roaming abilities.

“I think the ecosystem will certainly converge at the appropriate time,” Small said, noting that Verizon Wireless is already having talks with its global partners, China Mobile and Vodafone.

“We’ve had a fair amount of dialogue,” he said.

One area the company has been remarkably quiet on is AT&T’s pending $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile. While Sprint has vocally opposed the deal since day one, Verizon has sat quietly on the sidelines.

Small said he wasn’t surprised at the government’s move to block the deal, nor would he have been shocked if the deal had been allowed to proceed without objection.

“Our CEO has said this — ‘we’re here to serve our customers,'” Small said. “We’ll let AT&T and T-Mobile and others worry about other things. I think the industry has recognized and rewarded us for that.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work