Verizon steals Clearwire's 4G thunder

Verizon made big waves today by announcing that its 4G LTE network would go online in 38 U.S. markets by year-end.

Verizon's LTE roadmap for 2010 and beyond

Verizon COO Lowell McAdam said the network would cover approximately 110 million points of presence by the end of the year. In contrast, Clearwire and Sprint have promised that their WiMAX network will cover 120 million points of presence by the end of the year.

Although Verizon was expected to launch LTE commercially by the end of 2010, initial estimates were that it would launch in 25 to 30 U.S. markets. By having LTE up and running in 38 markets this year, Verizon could significantly blunt whatever time-to-market advantage Sprint and Clearwire had from getting their WiMAX services up before any other carriers launched 4G.

McAdam said today that Verizon will continue aggressively rolling out LTE throughout 2011 and beyond, and he projected that the network would reach 200 million people in the U.S. by the end of 2012 and 285 million people in the U.S. by the end of 2013.

McAdam did not announce any specific devices that would run on the 4G network. He said there were plenty of smartphones, tablets and other devices in the works but they wouldn't be officially announced until the Consumer Electronics Show this coming January. It's a good bet that at least one of the devices announced at CES will be Android-based, as McAdam said that Google CEO Eric Schmidt would be joining him onstage at the show to make an announcement.

"We think the decision we made three years ago to commit to LTE has got the ecosystem fired up and ready to go," McAdam said. "You will see tablets, smartphones, and M2M devices that we'll roll out in the first half of next year."

McAdam refused to comment when asked by a reporter if Verizon was gearing up to launch the iPhone on its 4G network. McAdam only said that the LTE network would provide Apple with "another reason that they'd want to have a device or tablet on Verizon."

McAdam also reiterated that Verizon would be moving away from an all-you-can-eat data plan for its 4G services and would give users buckets of megabytes or gigabytes they would consume each month, no matter if they were used for voice or data. In other words, McAdam said Verizon eventually plans on treating voice as just another data application that would run over their LTE network. He said voice services would initially continue to run through Verizon's 3G Ev-Do Rev. A network and that data transmissions would go through the LTE network.

4G technologies such as LTE and WiMAX represent the next stage in the evolution of wireless data technologies and generally deliver average download rates of 3Mbps or higher. In contrast, today's 3G networks typically deliver average download speeds about one-tenth of that rate. Sprint is currently the only major wireless carrier in the United States to offer 4G wireless data services, as its WiMAX network will be available in every major U.S. market by year-end. Small carrier MetroPCS has also started rolling out LTE to customers in select cities, as its 4G networks in Las Vegas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area both came online over the past three weeks.

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This story, "Verizon steals Clearwire's 4G thunder" was originally published by Network World.

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