November 19, 2012, 3:08 PM — "Who has the most 4G coverage?"
That's a deceptively simple question. And the answer to it is an unsatisfying but accurate, "It depends."
It depends on what one means by "4G," by "coverage" and even "most."
The U.S. is one of the fastest-growing 4G markets in the world, thanks to aggressive LTE deployments by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless, and availability of popular LTE smartphones like the recently released Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III, not to mention a growing number of tablets.
The carriers are not forthcoming on the number of 4G or LTE subscribers they have. AT&T says "more than 40% of ... post-paid smartphone customers use a 4G capable device." T-Mobile says "nearly 60% of our customers ... carry smartphones, and over half ... are 4G capable." Verizon says nearly "12% of our 89 million retail postpaid connections are 4G LTE as of the 2nd quarter of 2012."
Sprint still offers 4G service based on WiMAX, but in July began deploying LTE. T-Mobile has been expanding its HSPA+21 and +42 network, which is technically considered 4G, and delivers strong performance in several large-scale tests, most recently by RootMetrics' bi-annual "Need for Speed" report.
But investments in LTE are staggering. T-Mobile announced early in 2012 its $4 billion plan to re-equip 37,000 cell sites and refarm radio frequency spectrum to support LTE, focusing first on the top 50 U.S. markets. AT&T announced in November 2012 that it will spend $8 billion "for wireless initiatives" focused on LTE build out over three years. By year-end 2014, AT&T says its LTE service will cover 300 million potential subscribers.