Verizon’s 4G LTE Network Becomes Official—December 5th Launch

Verizon Wireless will be officially launching its 4G network on December 5th. Verizon’s 4G network is dubbed ‘LTE’ (long term evolution) and uses different technology than both T-Mobile (HSPA+) and Sprint (WiMax). Both T-Mobile and Sprint’s wireless data technologies are demonstrating around the same speeds right now (about 10x faster than realistic 3G on a good day). Unfortunately, the Verizon iPhone is not expected to receive a LTE radio inside but Verizon is going to start announcing LTE-compatible smartphones in January 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Speed and Coverage Claims by Different Carriers with 4G:

Verizon:

5 to 12 Mbps download and 2 to 5 Mbps upload

38 cities and 60 airports covered at launch

T-Mobile:

21 Mbps download and 5.7 Mbps upload (theoretical)

100+ metropolitan areas (up to 200 million people covered by 2011)

Sprint:

3 to 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload (upload is capped at this number)

68+ markets

As you can see, it is very hard to compare the three carriers with 4G networks by the end of the year. Sprint has had a very big head start on Verizon and it’s surprising that it has not yet expanded to more markets. However, with the few available 4G smartphones out right now, carriers have found themselves waiting for the handset technology to catch up. Remember the first iPhone? It wasn’t 3G compatible even though AT&T already had the network in place. The reason? Cost and battery consumption.

Each new generation of network requires new cellular radios. It takes time for manufacturers to figure out how to avoid draining the battery too quickly while still achieving acceptable performance on networks. Add in the additional cost of using a brand new technology that is still relatively unknown and unproven and you have a situation where the 4G adoption rate is slower than it really could be.

So now that Verizon has made its 4G plans official, how excited are you? The Tegra 2 powered ‘Etna’ smartphone that Motorola is working on is expected to be one of the very first. The BlackBerry PlayBook is also expected to get an LTE-compatible radio chip inside next year as well. A dual-core smartphone and tablet on Verizon’s 4G network? I can live with that for now.  I just want Verizon’s iPhone to have the technology…I’m even in one of the first areas that it will launch.

Would you still be interested in an iPhone on Verizon’s network even if it lacks LTE-compatibility (4G)? Excited about Big Red finally stepping into the 4G battle? Wonder how long it will take AT&T and Verizon to roll out their national 4G networks? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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