updated 11:20 am EDT, Thu May 14, 2009
Verizon 4G Now 2H 2010
Verizon as part of a conference call late Wednesday altered its plans for its 4G cellular network. Initially slated for early 2010, the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network is now said by wireless chief Lowell McAdam to be fully commercial for the second half of that year in 20 to 30 markets. Although he doesn'tsay whether there would be any changes to the late 2009 test rollout, McAdam explains that the network won't reach national coverage until 2013 and won't be completely finished until 2015.
The executive has also set a more conservative baseline speed that customers can expect on the network. While real-world tests have topped 60Mbps in certain conditions, Verizon now estimates that subscribers will net between 8Mbps and 12Mbps downstream on average. The speed is nonetheless about three to four times faster than Sprint's practical speeds through its WiMAX-based 4G network, which hover between 2Mbps and 4Mbps.
McAdam also notes that Verizon will be more restrictive on device use than AT&T even after the switch to LTE. Although the spec allows for SIM cards and lets users port their cards to devices other than those bought through the carrier, Verizon plans to mandate that any device has to be certified by Verizon before it will work with a given SIM card. AT&T allows Nokia smartphones and other devices to run on its network without similar limits.
The delay significantly shrinks the head start Verizon will have over AT&T in implementing 4G, as AT&T still anticipates launching its LTE network sometime in 2011. Unlike Verizon, AT&T also has an interim 3G step known as HSPA+ that should let it supply speeds closer to 4G while in many cases only having to update its software and upgrade its existing capacity.