Verizon talks of LTE plans: 38 markets by year end

SAN FRANCISCO-- Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) President and COO Lowell McAdam here at the 2010 CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference revealed more details about the company's impending launching of LTE later this year, outlining heavy interest from rural operators to lease its spectrum and build out LTE and indicating the operator may not necessarily launch LTE services with tiered pricing plans.

Verizon will launch LTE this year in a total of 38 cities and more than 60 airports, from Seattle to Denver to Boston, covering 110 million POPs. McAdam said the carrier will expand that figure to 200 million POPs by 2012 and more than 285 million by 2013. The numbers are beyond Verizon's initial expectations; the carrier has previously promised 25 to 30 markets and 100 million POPs by the end of this year.

McAdam said coverage in these 38 markets will be extensive, blanketing at least 70 percent of each market. In addition, Verizon is lighting up some 55 airports with LTE.

On the rural side, McAdam said since Verizon proposed sharing access with operators in rural areas via spectrum lease agreements, some 200 operators have reached out to the company. It now has reached agreements with five operators and is in discussions with another 12 operators. Under the proposed deals, Verizon would license its 700 MHz spectrum to the local carriers for a small fee; the local carrier would then sell the service. Through such deals, Verizon will extend to rural operators its purchasing power when it comes to infrastructure and devices and provide roaming capabilities.

Not surprisingly, McAdam said the operator has not finalized pricing. But what was surprising was his apparent uncertainty around whether Verizon will offer tiered pricing plans when LTE comes to market. Verizon executives in the past have hinted that LTE will come with tiered pricing. "There is a place for unlimited pricing plans, but over time, customers need to shift to pay-as-you-use. We'll evolve to that, but LTE doesn't necessarily force us to do that," he said.  

And finally, McAdam promised a plethora of devices next year, many of which will be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. He promised to show off tablets, smartphones and even embedded devices.

"The ecosystem has developed much faster than we expected," he said. --Lynnette