Verizon Tips Its Hand On 4G Network Launch Plans

Verizon plans to launch its 4G LTE network in 38 major U.S. metropolitan areas by year's end, in an ambitious rollout that will also drape high-speed mobile broadband coverage over 60 airports.

In a keynote address Thursday at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference, Lowell McAdam, president and chief operating officer of Verizon, outlined the cities in the initial launch wave, which include: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Miami, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis, Denver, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The scope of Verizon's 4G LTE launch is considerably larger than the plans it outlined in March, which called for an initial rollout of 25 to 30 cities covering about 100 million people. With the expansion, Verizon now expects to offer 4G to 110 million people nationwide.

The transition to 4G won't happen overnight, though. Verizon has said previously that the first 4G devices will be equipped with both a 4G and 3G chipset as opposed to a single, integrated chipset. This will provide backward compatibility and also offer Verizon some wiggle room, as carrier network service launches don't always happen within their planned timeframes. Verizon plans to launch its 4G service nationwide in 2013.

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However, in his keynote, McAdam said there is already an ecosystem building up around 4G that includes handset makers, chipmakers and software developers. He also said next year's Consumer Electronics Show will feature 4G LTE-compatible smartphones and tablets.

Next: What To Expect On The 4G Ecosystem Front

"We are building it, and they are showing up in droves," McAdam said of the 4G LTE ecosystem, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

4G LTE promises wireless broadband speeds of up to five times faster than 3G networks, and the technology is viewed in some industry circles as the cavalry riding to the rescue of carriers whose networks are being flooded with bandwidth-intensive apps.

But 4G LTE represents a huge infrastructure investment, and carriers that deploy the technology will almost certainly discontinue the all-you-can eat pricing plans that are currently gobbling their 3G bandwidth.

AT&T and T-Mobile are also building LTE networks, but Sprint has opted to go with Wi-Max and offers its own 4G service in conjunction with its partner, Clearwire.