Verizon Creates LTE Venture Fund

Pressing its LTE advantage, Verizon Wireless (VZ) said it is creating a new “4G Venture Forum to develop and support companies and services running on its broadband 4g wireless network.” A collaboration with several venture funds including Alcatel-Lucent Ventures and Charles River Partners, along with vendors Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) and Ericsson (ERIC), the primary suppliers for Verizon’s Long Term Evolution network, the fund will start out with some $1.3 billion at its disposal.

Collaborations between venture funds and service providers are not entirely new, but this is the most extensive combination of players to date, weaving together the largest U.S. wireless carrier, the world’s largest provider of wireless infrastructure (Ericsson), and some blue-chip venture funds. The announcement comes on the eve of CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment, one of the world’s largest mobile and wireless trade shows, which opens on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Verizon has gone public with its LTE push in recent weeks. At the 2009 PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Show in September, Tony Melone, Verizon Wireless’ CTO, laid out a roadmap for the carrier’s LTE deployment, saying that the company plans to launch LTE in 25 to 30 markets in 2010, and will roll out 4G technology across its nationwide network by the end of 2013. The carrier has also opened a lab at its LTE Innovation Center, in Waltham, Mass., outside Boston. Developers can make use of the physical facility as well as a virtual center to develop and test applications online.

Verizon spent billions in the FCC auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 Mhz range last year, and is spending billions more to roll out LTE – a technology that will not be widely available until 2012 at the earliest. It needs to create a splash with new services and new features that will quickly attract subscribers on the 4G network.

“We … recognize a need to infuse developers with the funding that will drive advancements, and we are committed to doing this in a collaborative way,” said Roger Gurnani, senior vice president of product development at Verizon Wireless, in a statement. “The 4GVF will help ensure that we’re not simply building the network and waiting for people to come, but that applications are ready to go when the infrastructure is ready.”

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