Verizon Wireless says its LTE network will go live in 38 markets on Sunday, Dec. 5.
The network will cover roughly one-third of the U.S. population, including large swaths of the Northeast Corridor, southern California and major Midwestern cities including Chicago and Cincinnati. The company plans to extend its LTE network to cover its entire 3G footprint by 2013.
“It will provide the launching pad for the future of mobile broadband and the future of mobile communications for the next ten years,” said Verizon Chief Technical Officer Tony Melone during the company’s announcement. “This will make a difference.”
Upon launch, the extent of the carrier’s device offerings will be limited to the LG VL600 USB dongle. A second USB dongle, the Pantech UML290, will be “available soon,” the company said. Both devices are compatible with Verizon’s LTE network and 3G network, and cost $99.99 after $50 rebate with a new two-year agreement.
Melone said Verizon’s first LTE smartphones would emerge by the middle of next year.
The service comes with two tiered data plans: $50 for 5 GB of data per month or $80 for 10 GB of data per month. Verizon did not announce data caps for the plans and said that customers who went over their limit would pay $10 for each additional gigabyte of data they consumed, without throttling speeds. Verizon will alert customers when they reach half, 75 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their allotted data use.
Melone said the network will deliver speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps on the downlink, even when fully loaded, with latency just half that of a 3G network. The operator is providing potential customers with street-level maps of its LTE coverage, similar to what Clearwire has done with maps for its WiMAX coverage.
Verizon’s closest competitor for next-generation mobile broadband services is Clearwire, which is working to expand its WiMAX network coverage amid a cash crunch which threatens Clearwire’s ability to operate. Clearwire plans to cover 120 million people with its WiMAX network by year-end and is currently operating in 68 markets across the United States.