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4G State of Play: LTE in the USA

Dan Jones

3:50 PM -- The 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) race continues apace even as 2012 rapidly draws to a close.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) said Tuesday that it has launched the faster wireless broadband technology in six more markets, and expanded its much-anticipated deployment in Chicago.

Sprint says it is launching LTE in downtown Chicago and more places around the metro area. Earlier in 2012, Sprint announced the availability of 4G LTE to Illinois customers in Addison, Bolingbrook, Des Plaines, Downers Grove, Kankakee, Waukegan-Lake County, Rockford, Joliet, Naperville, Palatine and Plainfield, along with Gary, Ind.

The operator's LTE network is now also arriving in Indianapolis and Carmel, Ind.; Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Calif.; Vallejo and Fairfield, Calif.; Southern Puerto Rico; York and Hanover, Pa. and Franklin County, Pa.

LTE market leader Verizon Wireless , meanwhile, has said that it will launch 16 more markets this coming Thursday.

So this seems like a good time for a round-up of how each operator's LTE network is looking at the end of 2012:

Table 1: Key U.S. LTE operators coverage at the end of 2012

Operator 4G Technology Where It's At Average Download Speeds
AT&T LTE 116 markets AT&T claims 10 times faster than 3G
Verizon LTE 470 markets 5Mbit/s-12Mbit/s averages
Sprint LTE/WiMax 49 markets on LTE; 71 on WiMax 6Mbit/s-8Mbits/s claimed on LTE; 3Mbit/s-6Mbit/s on WiMax
T-Mobile USA LTE Coming in 2013 N/A
MetroPCS LTE 13 cities and much of Florida 2Mbit/s-6Mbit/s
Leap Wireless (Cricket) LTE 2 cities 3-to-15 times faster than Leap's 3G
Sources: Light Reading Mobile research, operator data.

Verizon is clearly the LTE leader at the moment. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), meanwhile, is pushing its slightly superior speed ratings in some cities as its LTE advantage right now. (See Verizon: Rivals Can't Match Our 4G Reach and AT&T: Why Our LTE Is Better.)

Sprint, however, is easily the most interesting LTE test case to watch in 2013. The carrier has to grapple with how to incorporate Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) into its already complex "Network Vision" 4G update. (See Clearwire: Sprint's Next 4G Integration Headache?)

Currently, Sprint has one device -- a personal router -- that supports Clearwire's WiMAX, 3G CDMA and 4G LTE. How it will address the device and integration challenges ahead could be one of the more interesting issues of 2013.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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