Today Verizon announced that it will be turning on its blazingly fast 4G LTE wireless network on Sunday, December 5. The mobile operator claims it will be “the fastest and most advanced 4G network” in the country. They are starting small but the long-term plan is to eventually replace the current 3G network with 4G LTE (or Long Term Evolution). The network is initially launching in 38 major cities, including New York, Chicago, San Fransisco, and Los Angeles, and in more than 60 commercial airports coast to coast. They say it will immediately reach more than one-third of all Americans, and they expect the expansion to reach all current 3G areas by 2013. They are using the 700MHz spectrum for LTE deployment in the US to insure a “high-quality” network with “excellent coverage.” 4G LTE boasts speeds up to 10x times faster than 3G and a response time that’s over 2x faster. Faster speeds and reduced lag time promise better upload and download times, smoother video streaming and video chat, and sharing options. Verizon says customers can expect 5-12Mbps on the downlink and 2-5Mbps on the uplink. That’s pretty damn fast; compare those numbers to current 3G speeds (0.6-1.4Mbps download and 0.5Mbps upload). It’s also faster than the competition; it bests AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s HSPA+ (1-7Mbps download) and Sprint’s WiMAX (3-6Mbps download).
When Verizon officially launches its 4G LTE network this Sunday, customers will only have the option to use from two USB modems to hook up their laptops wirelessly to the network. Verizon says “consumer-oriented handsets” (aka cell phones and tablet devices) that will harness the new network will be available by mid-2011 and will be announced at CES. The LG VL600 (available on launch day) and Pantech UML290 (available “soon”) USB modems will each cost $99 after a $50 rebate and with a new two-year agreement. The data plan pricing is as follows: $50/month for 5GB monthly allowance, $80/month for 10GB. You’ll have to pay $10/GB in overage charges if you use up the allowance. There’s no cap on overages, a nice touch I guess. Both modems are backwards-compatible with Verizon’s 3G network. If you lose 4G reception the modem will automatically switch to 3G speeds on the fly. 3G to 4G does not work that way; if you move from the slower network to the faster one the switch will only take place once 3G downloads are complete.
And that about sums up today’s announcements. When the network goes live on Sunday, Verizon will provide street level coverage area maps so you can find out if you’re blanketed by 4G LTE. Be sure to look after the break for the official PR which includes a full listing of all cities and airports included in the initial launch window.
Update: It’s been confirmed that Verizon will offer the 4G LTE service off-contract, too. The monthly rates and overage fees remain the same; what becomes more expensive is the upfront cost for the USB modem. Instead of paying $99, you’ll be forced to pay$249.99 for a modem if you decide to enter the 4G world contract-less.