The first LTE network made its debut in the U.S. in September 2010 when MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) launched its first market. Fast forward 20 months and we now have a thriving LTE ecosystem with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) expected to cover 400 markets and 260 million POPs with LTE by year-end and AT&T (NYSE:T) expected to double its LTE coverage to around 150 million POPs by year-end.
Aside from the top two Tier 1 operators, many other carriers are also in the midst of deploying LTE, including U.S. Cellular, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), C Spire Wireless and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP). And T-Mobile USA is planning to deploy LTE Release 10 in its AWS spectrum in 2013.
With all these U.S. operators deploying LTE, one might be tempted to call the technology a success. Analysts say it is. In fact, Susan Welsh de Grimaldo of Strategy Analytics told FierceWireless that the fact that Verizon is accelerating its LTE deployment schedule means that it's very happy with the technology.
The operator is certainly pushing its subscribers toward LTE. Late last year Verizon launched a promotion to essentially double customers' LTE data allowance from 2 GB to 4 GB for the same $30 per month. That promotion, along with the growing number of LTE devices offered at various price points, helped Verizon's LTE adoption rate grow in the fourth quarter of last year and in the first quarter of 2012. Just last week during its first quarter earnings call, Verizon announced that it had sold 2.9 million LTE devices in the first quarter, bringing its total LTE subscriber base to 8 million, or approximately 9 percent of its pstpaid base.
However, as more operators deploy LTE, the 4G landscape will likely become more competitive. Operators will have to do more than offer discount data prices to get subscribers to flock to their 4G networks.
In our latest ebook, "Making 4G Profitable and Successful," FierceWireless delves into the many issues operators face when deploying 4G, including the lack of available spectrum, the promise of LTE Advanced and the struggles of 4G wholesale providers. --Sue