4G: Taking Extreme Speed to New Limits

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Verizon’s 4G Lead Widens

The biggest wireless carrier has a huge lead on the 4G rollout
and it isn’t slowing down.

By Andy Patrizio

Verizon Wireless has the undisputed lead in 4G rollout, with more than 195 markets covering more than 200 million Americans at the start of 2012. It added five more cities in January 2012 and continues to rollout more LTE devices as well.

Verizon actually began its LTE deployment in 2008 but didn’t start selling devices, mostly USB modems for laptops, until 2010, when it could offer substantial coverage. At this point, there is not a major market in the U.S. not served by Verizon’s LTE service.

On the company’s most recent earnings call, CFO Frank Shammo said the company expects LTE coverage to be as widespread as its 3G coverage by mid-2013. The company’s 3G network currently covers about 290 million people across the country and is available in all 50 states except the most remote areas.

But as the coverage map shows, the LTE coverage is still pretty much limited to cities, whereas outlying areas are still 3G. Not that you really need 4G when you’re in the middle of Death Valley.

Verizon introduced six more LTE devices at the recent 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It now offers a total of 10 phones, all Android-based, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Droid Xyboard tablets, USB modems, and base stations. All told, Verizon has 24 LTE devices.

Verizon says its LTE users should experience average data rates of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink, on par with a wired broadband connection.

Because the faster data rate makes it possible to consume more data, Verizon had a little mercy on its customers and doubled the data rate plans. 4G customers now get 4GB per month for $30, 10GB for $50 and 20GB is $80 while 3G customers get half as much data for the same amount of money.

LTE is obviously taking off for Verizon, because in its most recent quarter, it shipped 1.5 million devices at retail, both handsets and otherwise, and half of them were LTE. Because the two networks are physically separate, Verizon expects to see more and more traffic moving to the LTE network, which will in turn free up traffic on the 3G network. So during the transition, 3G will get faster, if only from less congestion.

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