America's largest wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless, this morning officially kicked off its push for 4G. The company has launched its next generation wireless technology in 38 markets, which it says will cover 110 million Americans.
Tony Melone, the company's Chief Technology Officer claims that the network will generally offer a 10 times performance boost over current EV-DO network (3G). It will offer real world speeds of 5 to 12Mbps down and 2 to 5Mbps up -- several times 3G data speeds in many areas. It will also cut the latency approximately in half from current 3G technology.
Verizon has "a very aggressive plan" to offer nationwide 4G coverage by 2013. To do that it will be making use of its recently purchased spectrum in the 700 MHz range.
While it did not announce any new 4G-ready smartphones or laptops quite yet (apparently Sprint's Galaxy Tab, Epic 4G, and EVO 4G are still in a league of their own), it did announce two new 4G USB modems from LG and Pantech will each cost $99.99 USD after $50 rebate. The first two modems will land exclusively in Verizon stores on December 5. More modems are coming within weeks, and all are backwards compatible with Verizon's 3G network.
The modems will come with a choice of two 4G data plans -- $50/month for 5GB or $80/month for 10GB. Overages will cost $10 USD/GB, a pretty reasonable rate, compared to Verizon's past wireless modem overage rates, which could total a couple thousand dollars for going several gigabytes over. [Ed. - Personal experience!]
Reportedly some of the new modems don't work with Apple computers, according to Engadget, who tested one of the devices. Perhaps Apple is saying "no" to 4G, like it is USB 3.0, Blu-ray, Flash, and SSD upgrades.
Another limitation is that while the modems can jump from 4G to 3G in areas of intermittent coverage, they can't jump back until data transmission is ceased (e.g. the network is disconnected).
"Other devices", i.e. 4G smartphones and tablets will likely be announced at CES and will launch in "mid 2011" according to Verizon's presentation.
Verizon finished its presentation with a bit of humor -- "Whether you call it 4G or chicken soup, it launches this Sunday."
It also revealed during the Q&A that it might merge its 3G and LTE efforts in 2012 or 2013, around the time when it hopes to start transmitted voice information (phone calls) over its LTE channels. Currently LTE will exclusively work with the company's data offerings.
There's plenty to take home from Verizon's announcement. LTE is arguably significantly superior to the "4G-like" HSPA+ (actually 3.5G) that T-Mobile offers. But T-Mobile has the edge in that it currently offers 3.5G smartphones, while Verizon's offerings presumably won't land until mid-next year.
Similarly Verizon has even more to worry about from Sprint Nextel, who currently is selling true 4G-enabled tablets and smartphones.
On the plus side for Verizon, though, its deployment does seem fairly aggressive -- covering one third of Americans with a next generation data network is nothing to sneer at. And the company seems well ahead of AT&T, which looks to be late to the gate in the 4G generation (AT&T currently offers "LTE-ready" broadband cards, but its LTE network won't come online until next year). With that said, AT&T currently has the fastest overall nationwide data network, according to several surveys, so Verizon also has to worry about that.
And it's important to consider that while T-Mobile and especially Sprint may be a bit ahead of Verizon, they're America's fourth and third largest wireless providers, respectively, while Verizon is the largest. Thus lack of visibility and reputation may result in these companies being unable to fully capitalize on their technology advantage, in the brief window that it exists.