Progress report: A snapshot of U.S. LTE deployments in 2013

Phil Goldstein

Few devices get launched in the U.S. market these days without supporting LTE--and for good reason. The United States is one of the most advanced LTE markets in the world, along with South Korea, Japan and to a lesser extent, Germany. If we are to believe the carriers' predictions, by the end of 2013 there will be four U.S. operators covering at least 200 million people with LTE. Although that is clearly not everyone and coverage strength varies, that is a lot more robust than at the start of 2013.

With all of this in mind, FierceWireless is taking a snapshot of the U.S. LTE market, focusing on the four Tier 1 carriers. (To be clear: A number of smaller carriers have launched LTE, but none offer networks as broad as those from the Tier 1 carriers.) Much has changed since last fall, when we offered our last LTE snapshot: Some carriers have been acquired (MetroPCS) and others are in the process of being acquired (Leap Wireless).

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) generally continues to lead the market in terms of covered POPs and the amount of data traffic riding on its LTE network. Verizon is enjoying a headstart though--the carrier launched LTE in December 2010. But that doesn't mean that Verizon's competitor are standing still.

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has been furiously expanding its coverage in 2013, and aims to get within shooting distance of Verizon's LTE coverage by the end of the year. Sprint's (NYSE:S) deployment has lagged its rivals, but now that the carrier has received fresh capital from parent SoftBank, it plans to deploy Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum for TD-LTE service on a nationwide basis to augment capacity. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), which only deployed LTE commercially in March, already has 157 million POPs covered and T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that the company is on target to hit 200 million ahead its earlier deadline of the end of the year. (Legere has also been taunting rivals on Twitter with T-Mobile's LTE speeds.)

Putting aside all of the hype (including the latest kerfuffle between Verizon and AT&T over which company has the more "reliable" LTE network ) can be difficult, but FierceWireless compiled information from all four of the Tier 1 carriers on their LTE networks and future plans so that they can be compared as fairly as possible. Bear in mind that this report represents a snapshot in time, and the playing field will likely be different by year-end. Carriers are also moving ahead with LTE Advanced, which includes technologies ranging from carrier aggregation to enhanced inter-cell interference coordination (eICIC). Where available information on LTE Advanced is also included.

FierceWireless worked with Mosaik Solutions to provide updated LTE coverage maps for the carriers. All of the coverage illustrated in these maps is derived from public information provided by the carriers.

What do think of the current state play in the U.S. LTE market, as well as where things are going? Let us know in the comments! --Phil

Click here for Verizon's LTE progress

Click here for AT&T's LTE progress

Click here for Sprint's LTE progress

Click here for T-Mobile's LTE progress


Progress report: A snapshot of U.S. LTE deployments in 2013