Verizon Wireless' first LTE smartphone goes on sale today

Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) LTE smartphone, the HTC ThunderBolt, goes on sale today for $250 with a two-year contract.

Interestingly, the operator is not charging a premium for the service, saying subscribers will be required to sign up for a minimum $40 per month voice plan and pay $30 for unlimited data usage. Verizon currently charges $30 per month for unlimited data on its CDMA EV-DO network.

Verizon's LTE network is available in 38 markets, and the operator plans to introduce service in a total of 140 markets by 2011. The operator currently offers two laptop LTE modems and charges $50 per month for 5 GB of LTE data and $80 for 10 GB of data, with a $10 per GB overage charge.

Verizon indicated recently that it plans to move to a tiered data pricing model this summer, but is still figuring out the details. The move to offer unlimited data now could be one that attracts users to the faster data speeds of LTE. In addition, since LTE is available in just 38 markets, subscribers would have to roam between LTE and the slower CDMA network and may not be willing to pay a premium at this point.

Verizon-supported Skype service also won't be available for the operator's first LTE smartphones, the company said. "Verizon Wireless and Skype are committed to providing a great mobile video calling experience for customers," said Verizon spokesman Albert Aydin. "While it won't be available when the first 4G smartphones launch, we continue to work together to deliver Skype mobile with video as soon as we can, but we don't have a specific date to share at this time."

Verizon's ThunderBolt smartphone will support simultaneous voice and data sessions, a feature AT&T has heavily marketed on the iPhone 4 since Verizon's CDMA network does not support that feature.

The ThunderBolt also offers a mobile hotspot feature that allows it to share an LTE connection with up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices. The feature is free until May 15 after which customers can pay for the feature for an additional $20 per month for 2 GB of data per month. Verizon has said its LTE network delivers average downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article
- see this release

Related articles:
HTC ThunderBolt - Measuring this year's hottest smartphones
Verizon's Melone: LTE smartphones on track, despite 'issues'
Verizon: Motorola Xoom customers can keep 3G data plans after LTE upgrade
Verizon says cost is not behind move to VoLTE
Verizon unveils 10 LTE devices, including smartphones, tablets and hotspots

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