CTIA 2011: Verizon's LTE Train Rolls On to 147 Markets

ORLANDO, Fla. -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2011 -- Verizon Wireless is moving fast and furious on Long Term Evolution (LTE), saying that it will add another 59 new markets by the end of the year. This will bring its total up to 147, including the 39 it initially launched in December and 49 it announced at January's Consumer Electronics Show. (See Verizon Sets More LTE Launches.)

Verizon is focusing on expanding beyond its metro areas like San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles to medium-sized cities and smaller communities where wireless connectivity is scarce. Verizon said in a release that it's working with rural communications companies in these areas to combine their tower and backhaul assets with Verizon's LTE equipment and 700MHz spectrum. It has six rural companies signed up to jointly build and operate LTE networks in this way.

LTE subscribers in these markets can choose from two 4G modems and one smartphone, the newly launched High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Thunderbolt. (See Thunderbolt & Sidekick Saddle Up for 4G.)

A full list of the cities Verizon plans to cover by the end of 2011 can be found on its website.

Light Reading's Carol Wilson caught up with Verizon's Verizon's VP of Network and Technology Tom Sawanobori here in Orlando. Check out the video below for more on Verizon's LTE plans.

Why this matters
Verizon is counting on LTE and its spectrum holdings to differentiate its service and compete against the potential mega-carrier created if AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) acquires T-Mobile US Inc. . Covering 147 markets by the end of the year would give it a substantial head start over AT&T, which plans to launch its first LTE market mid-year. Now all eyes will turn to its device and pricing plans. (See Get the Latest on AT&T/T-Mobile With LR.)

The Thunderbolt was the first of 10 LTE devices that Verizon announced at CES. We've yet to see a follow-up, but LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) are all slated to provide super-charged devices for Verizon. Right now, all the smartphones will fall back to 3G for voice calling, but Verizon is also in the midst of voice-over-LTE trials that should breed commercial services by 2013. (See MWC 2011: Verizon Plans VoLTE for 2012.)

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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