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Posted at 1:40 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Verizon Wireless announces LTE 4G plans

By Rob Pegoraro

Verizon Wireless will launch its 4G "LTE" mobile-broadband service on Sunday in 38 cities (including Washington) and 60 airports across the United States.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.,-based carrier says this upgrade will offer 110 million Americans access to 10 times the speed of its current 3G service: downloads of 5 to 12 million bits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 2 to 5 Mbps. It should also offer half the latency of 3G, improving the performance of Internet calling services and other interactive applications.


Verizon, the largest U.S. carrier, will charge $50 for 5 gigabytes a month and $80 for 10 GB, with each extra gigabyte or fraction costing an extra $10. Neither plan includes voice calling, as its LTE service will initially be limited to two $99.99 USB modems. It won't ship LTE-compatible smartphones until the middle of 2011, although it expects to provide more information about those next month at the Consumer Electronics Show.

But these new models won't be 4G phones when you try to call somebody. To avoid dropped calls when moving from 4G to 3G service areas, Verizon will keep voice on its older network until its LTE coverage matches its 3G range, which won't happen until 2013. Only then will it move to a pure Internet-calling system for voice, at which point we can presumably do away with separate buckets of minutes in service plans.

Verizon's 4G service will run on parts of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum that was freed up by the end of analog television broadcasts last year.

LTE, short for "Long Term Evolution," is supposed to become a Grand Unified Theory of wireless telecommunications, employed even more widely than today's GSM technology. But the industry in the United States is far from coalescing around LTE.

AT&T, Verizon's next-biggest competitor, won't begin its own LTE deployment until the middle of 2011. In the meantime, it's touting an upgrade of its 3G service to a faster version, HSPA+," that offers 4G-ish speeds.

T-Mobile began adding HSPA+ to its 3G network before AT&T and has since been upgrading its marketing, as well. In March, the carrier called its quicker service "the nation's fastest wireless 3G network". In July, it said it offered "4G speeds". Now it simply calls it "4G."

Sprint has been on a different track, using a competing technology called WiMax to start offering 4G access in October 2008. It had service in Washington by the time it shipped its Evo Android phone in June, although it didn't formally announce a 4G launch here until Monday.

Sprint is not wedded to WiMax, however; as I was told during a visit to one of its 4G cell sites in September. It can convert its WiMax transmitters to LTE with a software upgrade. (Appeasing owners of now-obsolete WiMax phones would be a different matter.)

Meanwhile, Verizon has a difficult task as it begins a long build-out of 4G service. The conference call it set up for reporters provided an unintentional reminder of how technology can break down: It began with a few minutes of hold music punctuated by "thank you for your patience" recordings.

When do you think you'll be using a 4G phone? Do you even care about this upgrade, or are there other features you'd rather see in your next phone?

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 1, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Telecom  
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Just bought a 3g phone. So far I've been happy with 3g speeds. I'm not gonna watch video on a 3" screen, but it's decent for browsing Flickr.

Posted by: wiredog | December 1, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I assume this is all in preparation for the Verizon iPhone. I guess if you read between the lines it might come out around the middle of next year in select markets. Hopefully.

Posted by: tbantug | December 1, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'll stick with what I have now 3G the cost is already too much and now with the higher speeds it will be way more... in the end I may have to give up my cell phone and go back to land-line to protest the ever rising costs of having a mobile phone. This is only going to make the company that much more money by charging you higher prices for a product that should not cost that much.

Posted by: Concerned5 | December 1, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

3G is fast enough for me.

Posted by: TheChileanPresidentIsMuchBetterRespondingToDisastersThanObama | December 1, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Concerned5: the end I may have to give up my cell phone and go back to land-line to protest the ever rising costs of having a mobile phone. This is only going to make the company that much more money by charging you higher prices for a product that should not cost that much.

Really? You'll give up your mobile phone? VZW and the rest know people won't - we're a society bound to our mobile devices. The high price of wireless is due in part to the fact that people are dropping landline service in record numbers, so they have to make their money somewhere. There is a tipping point, but I think we're a long way from it. As long as people see value in what they have, they'll pay for it.

Posted by: db_in_va | December 1, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"Only then will it move to a pure Internet-calling system for voice, at which point we can presumably do away with separate buckets of minutes in service plans.

This doesn't seem plausible, as cellular data levels are already stretching the carriers thin. Also, I'm already paying more on my (family) plan for data than I am for minutes. (ATT, 4 lines, 3 iPhones. shared minutes = $110. Data = $90 for the iPhones, $20 for the standard mobile phone, plus $20 for the unlimited family texting.) How will this work?

Posted by: beedubu2 | December 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

more crap to buy fools

Posted by: pofinpa | December 1, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm happy with my Sprint HTC Evo 4G phone and right now with Sprint's current business model ($10 extra for the Evo experience which involves 4G but it's not a $10 4G charge), I'm pretty happy with the cost, speed, voice quality and phone quality.

Posted by: slackermom | December 1, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I live in Columbia and have AT&T - I couldn't be happier. AT&T's 3G speeds are more than fast enough for my usage, which averages about 4GB per month. I just upgraded to a Windows Phone 7 device and it performs beautifully - no lagging on downloads, no dropped calls (which I never had an issue with any way), and quick uploads. Oh, and to sweeten the deal, I have been grandfathered in with an awesome data package - unlimited data and text for $40 per month.

I see myself waiting a while before I make the switch to LTE. I don't see myself using WiMax technology through Sprint (or any other carrier for that matter) because Clear seems to be struggling, from what I hear, and WiMax technology doesn't seem like it's the true "next generation" of wireless data technology. Once AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer LTE smartphones and have solid LTE coverage in most major metropolitan areas, I'll start shopping to see who will get my LTE business. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening until 2012 or 2013 at the soonest.

Posted by: se_coupe | December 2, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

If Vzn rolls out 4G the way they're doing FiOs in the DC area, we could be waiting a verrry long time.

Posted by: CafeBeouf | December 2, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

How about some affordable high speed internet for those of us that cant get DSL or Cable where we live. Satelite is not adequate for several reasons.

Posted by: jimbobkalina1 | December 5, 2010 2:44 AM | Report abuse

I’m surprised to see that AT&T let Verizon to pioneer the LTE technology. Sure, this is just another way of wasting our hard earned money but let’s give it first a try before saying all this nasty stuff regarding 4G.

Posted by: rickyfantana | December 6, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

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