Verizon launched unlimited data earlier this year, much to the surprise of just about everyone. And since unlimited data made its return, studies have shown that Verizon's network is getting slower, not to mention customers are also now seeing the slower speeds on their devices. But Verizon believes it has a plan for offsetting the slower speeds thanks to unlimited data. And that is refarming its spectrum. The company didn't note which spectrum it would refarm, but likely its 2G and CDMA spectrum, once those networks are shut down.
Last month, Verizon announced that it would be throttling video data on its network, dropping from 720p to 480p. The same resolution that Verizon used to make fun of Sprint and T-Mobile for using – which both have now dropped in favor of 720p and 1080p streaming. Currently, Verizon lacks quite a bit of AWS-3 spectrum, but it has plenty of other spectrum, which is going to be key for refarming in 4G LTE and also building out its 5G network in the next decade or so.
Refarming spectrum isn't something new, it's something that carriers do often do when they move to newer networks. For instance with 4G LTE, many carriers refarmed the spectrum used for its GPRS (1G) or EDGE (2G) networks back in the day. As that was spectrum that wasn't being used anymore, but it was still owned by those carriers, so they might as well use it. So this shouldn't come as a surprise for Verizon, and in fact, it is something that consumers should have expected. As Verizon isn't going to let that spectrum just sit out going unused for a long period of time, if it can help it.
But as BTIG analysts noted, this shows the state of Verizon's network, and the state isn't good. Its competitors have said for quite some time that Verizon's network is degrading and becoming vastly overcrowded. It's something that Verizon has largely shot down over the years, but it's looking like it is actually very true. Of course, every network gets overcrowded at some point, which is why carriers are always working on their network, but Verizon has been very slow with rolling out Small Cells in the past few years, which would help with congestion by adding more bandwidth. That's something that will likely ramp up pretty soon though.