Verizon Slates Dec. 5 4G Launch

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Basking Ridge, N.J. - Verizon Wireless will launch its 4G network in 38 major markets on Sunday, when it will begin selling a $99.99 3G/4G USB modem through its stores and other direct channels.

Sales of USM modems through indirect distribution channels "will follow," said senior VP/chief technical officer Tony Melone.

The carrier has already launched ads to promote the technology, which uses the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard in the 700MHz band.

The 38 launch markets, which were

previously announced

, reach about a third of the U.S. population, or about 110 million people, who will benefit from what Melone described as "a quantum generational step up" from current 3G service.

Verizon's launch modem is LG's VL600, which will be followed "soon after" by Pantech's UML290, also at $99.99. The prices are contingent on a two-year service agreement and come after $50 rebate. Additional USB modems will follow "in weeks" of the Pantech launch, and 3G/4G-equipped cellphones will arrive "by" mid-2011, Melone said. Details about the coming 3G/4G cellphones and other connected devices will be announced at International CES.

The USB modems are bundled with one of two data plans, one of which is priced at $10 less per month than a 3G plan to incentive consumers to make the switch, Melone said. That 4G plan costs $50/month for 5GB of data, with each 1GB of data above that costing $10. In contrast, one of Verizon's current 3G data plans for USB modems costs $60/month for 5GB of data.

The second 4G plan available at launch costs $80/month for 10GB, also with a $10 charge for each 1GB over that amount. Most 4G users will opt for this plan, Melone forecast.

Though prepaid carrier MetroPCS has already launched LTE in six markets, Melone boasted that the scale of Verizon's planned expansion will "kick start the ecosystem" for LTE-enabled devices. He likened the boost that Verizon will give to LTE to the boost that Verizon gave the Android smartphone OS. "Android really took off when Verizon got behind Android," he said.

For now, Verizon doesn't plan to migrate circuit-switched voice calls to voice over data, eliminating the need for separate voice and data plans. But the carrier does plan to do so once its 4G network is broad enough to make it practical. The network will be broad enough in late 2012 or early 2013, he said.

By the end of 2013, added Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless president/CEO, the LTE network "will reach the existing Verizon Wireless 3G coverage area."

As for performance, Melone reiterated that in a fully loaded network, consumers will enjoy speeds that are 10 times greater than what they get over Verizon's 3G network. That means downlink speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 12Mbps and uplink speeds ranging from 2Mbps to 5Mbps. The first consumers to get on the network initially will enjoy faster speeds because the network will be far from loaded.

As consumers migrate to 4G from 3G, Verizon's 3G network will enjoy more "headroom" that will increase users' throughput, Melone added.

Pointing to potential entertainment applications, Melone noted that LTE latency "almost mirrors" that of a wired broadband connection and in some cases does mirror wired broadband latency. Latency, he said, "is important to VoIP and gaming."


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