Verizon will debut 4G LTE service Dec. 5 with tiered pricing

After months of hinting, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) today announced it will launch its commercial LTE service in 38 markets and at more than 60 airports on Dec. 5.  As expected, the carrier's first two LTE devices will be USB dongles.

Click here for complete details on Verizon’s LTE launch, including information on its first two USB modems.The two devices, the LG VL600 and Pantech UML290, will cost $99.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. Both devices will be backward compatible with Verizon's EVDO network. Also on Sunday, Verizon will provide street-level maps of its coverage.

Verizon will charge $50 per month for 5 GB of LTE data and $80 for 10 GB of data; both plans will have a $10/GB overage charge. Customers will get text alerts when they reach 50 percent, 75 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their usage allotment. All of Verizon's LTE plans are postpaid. Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone said in a conference call that the company wanted to provide simple data plans to start, but that the pricing plans could change at some point in the future. "As the network evolves, other aspects around our offerings will evolve," he said.

Interestingly, Verizon charges $60 for 5 GB on its 3G dongles.

Melone also alluded the battle over "4G" as a marketing term (Verizon is marketing the service as "4G LTE," and T-Mobile USA has designated its HSPA+ network as 4G). "Whether we call it 4G or something else is really not that relevant," he said, adding that LTE represents a "quantum generational step up" from the company's current 3G EVDO network.

"This is the real deal," Melone said. "This is a brand new network that was built from the ground up. It's based on the latest technical standards. It is rich in mobility. It will provide the launching pad for the future of mobile broadband and the future of mobile communications for the next 10 years."

Verizon's initial LTE launch will cover 110 million POPs and is deployed in 700 MHz spectrum, which Verizon purchased in 2008 in an FCC auction for close to $10 billion. The carrier will expand LTE coverage to 200 million POPs by 2012 and more than 285 million by 2013. Melone said at an investor conference earlier this month that the company also will use its AWS spectrum to provide additional capacity on an as-needed basis for LTE. The company plans to launch voice-over-LTE service by late 2012 or early 2013.

Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) are Verizon's primary radio access vendors for its LTE network, and Nokia Siemens Networks, Cisco and Tekelec are Verizon's core network and IMS vendors. 

Melone said its network, even when fully-loaded, will deliver real-world downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps. The network's latency will clock in at 30 milliseconds, half of the latency speed on Verizon's 3G network.

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) will launch commercial LTE service by mid-2011, and will cover between 70 million and 75 million POPs by the end of next year. Currently, MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS), which offers LTE service in six markets, charges $55 per month without a contract for unlimited voice, texting and LTE data access. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which resells Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX service under the Sprint 4G brand, charges $60 per month for its 3G/4G mobile broadband plan, which has a 5 GB cap on 3G service and unlimited 4G service.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Verizon LTE FAQ page
- see this Verizon site

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