Verizon closer to wrapping LTE blitz as it hits 75% coverage

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), already the operator with the most LTE customers in the world, is quickly closing in on its goal to replicate its 3G footprint with LTE. The operator said it will add 34 new LTE markets today and expand service in 38 others, bringing its total coverage to 371 U.S. markets.

Verizon has said it intends to serve 400 markets by year's end, meaning it has only 29 more markets to light up to reach that goal. Verizon did not specify the exact number of POPs it will cover after it initiates its new market launches, but GigaOM noted that 75 percent of the U.S. Census population figure of 314 million would mean Verizon's LTE coverage now extends to 235 million people, just 25 million shy of the 260 million POPs it has targeted for year-end coverage. Rival AT&T (NYSE:T) expects to expand its LTE network to cover 150 million POPs by year's end. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) expects to cover 123 million POPs with LTE by year's end as well.

"Our 4G LTE network is currently in more markets than all other U.S. wireless providers combined, and our team is continuing to expand the network so that more customers across the nation can take advantage of 4G LTE speed and capabilities," said Nicola Palmer, Verizon Wireless CTO. "We are ahead of schedule with our 4G LTE market roll out and will provide 4G LTE network coverage to more than 400 markets in the near future."

The operator also claims to have the largest selection of LTE devices offered by any wireless provider and says its LTE network averages data rates of 5 to 12 Mbps on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink.

The LTE markets launching today include: Hot Springs, Ark.; Redding, Calif.; Valdosta and Waycross, Ga.; Centralia and Danville, Ill.; Parsons, Salina and Topeka, Kan.; Alexandria and Monroe, La.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Battle Creek and Muskegon, Mich.; Mankato and Worthington, Minn.; Joplin and Sedalia, Mo.; Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot, N.D.; Chillicothe, Ohio; Reading, Pa.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Laredo, Odessa and Texarkana, Texas; Brattleboro and White River Junction, Vt.; Charlottesville, Va.; Longview, Wash.; and Eau Claire, La Crosse and Manitowoc, Wis.

As part of its market fill-in effort, Verizon is adding geographic coverage in the New York metro area, activating an additional 38 fill-in cell sites in all 5 boroughs of Manhattan, as well as Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk and Rockland Counties. The operator introduced LTE to New York in December 2010 and now covers 90 percent of the metro area with LTE.

In conjunction with its announcement of expanded LTE coverage. Verizon also made a marketing pitch for its existing HomeFusion Broadband fixed LTE service. Aimed at rural homes, HomeFusion is available with several usage-based plans, beginning at $60 monthly access for 10 GB. A one-time equipment fee of $199.99 applies and installation is free. Customers get an allowance of 50 percent more data for the first two full billing cycles of service.

AT&T does not offer a home-based wireless DSL replacement service, but this week the company introduced AT&T Wireless Home Phone, a service that lets a user plug a traditional phone device supplied by ZTE into a standard electrical outlet and get voice service via AT&T's wireless network, into select markets.

For more:
- see this Verizon release, this release and this release
- see this GigaOM article

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