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CES: Motorola leads off Verizon Wireless LTE device effort

The new Motorola Mobility bent over backwards to support VZW’s LTE launch, supplying not only its first LTE smartphone but a tablet to boot

LAS VEGAS--As promised Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) unveiled its first batch of long-term evolution (LTE) devices at CES, securing commitments from key handset and module vendors to supply it by mid-year with a much more varied portfolio than its current lone LTE USB card.

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Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) was particularly aggressive in being among the first to support Verizon Wireless’ LTE launch, expanding its popular Droid 3G Android device line to include the new mobile broadband technology. But Motorola also committed to making its first tablet computer supporting LTE, albeit after a hardware upgrade. Both devices will be available in their LTE iterations in the second quarter.

Motorola was the first to show off an LTE phone Wednesday revealing the Droid Bionic, one of two dual-core processor phones it announced at CES. Verizon also demoed prototype versions of its new tablet, called the Xoom, which will have EV-DO connectivity at launch later this year, but will be hardware upgradable to LTE through a module. The Xoom is still in development, mainly because its operating system still isn’t ready. Rather than use an older smartphone-centric of Android, Moto is building a larger tablet on the back of Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, which will be the first iteration of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) OS fully optimized for the tablet form factor.

At Verizon’s multi-speaker keynote on Thursday, Google principle engineer Mike Cleron gave a detailed look at the new OS, which takes advantage of the larger screen real-estate and heavy duty graphics processors expected to be standard in most tablets. Expanded widgets and new multi-tasking capabilities featured heavily as well as 3D graphical interfaces. “We focused on taking all of the things people love about Android and making them richer,” Cleron said.

Sierra Wireless, meanwhile, today announced the commercial availability this quarter of its long-term evolution-EV-DO module, the AirPrime MC7750, designed specifically to work over VZW’s 2G and mobile broadband frequencies. According to Sierra, the module is one of its most versatile, not limited to a specific device form factor. Sierra said it can be embedded in laptops, netbooks and tablets as well as mobile broadband routers and gateways, which redistribute the LTE connection to multiple devices through WiFi.

Verizon launched its LTE service late last year in 38 markets covering 110 million pops, selling the service purely as mobile broadband access. But Verizon president and chief operating officer Lowell McAdam said the operator has been aggressive in trying to proliferate the technology into as many devices and applications as possible. Verizon has been collaborating with app developers and M2M device makers to use LTE in innovative ways beyond smartphones and tablets, he said. He said VZW is demoing at its CES booth live TV broadcasting equipment that uses LTE as a back channel for cheaper than traditional broadcast transmission methods. Other M2M scenarios such as connected cars will also be demoed.

“The full-blown mobile Internet experience we’ve been predicting for years is finally here,” McAdam said.

Verizon isn’t the only operator marketing a 4G service. Sprint (NYSE:S) has marketed its WiMax service under the 4G banner as does T-Mobile (NYSE:DT) its HSPA+ service. On Wednesday AT&T (NYSE:T) joined the 4G fray, announcing a slew of new HSPA+ devices it will launch under the 4G banner, though its ability to support those higher speeds will be dependent on how quickly it can upgrade its backhaul network to fiber.

McAdam used his rather significant stage time at CES to spell out the difference between what each operator defines as 4G.

“4G is not all created equal,” McAdam said. He pointed to the fact that Verizon had low-frequency, contiguous spectrum nationwide, three advantages each of its competitors can claim one or two of but not all. Those advantages allow VZW to develop a much higher-capacity network, delivering greater bandwidth to the end user at much greater distance and further indoor penetration than other technologies, he said.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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