Verizon CTO David Small today estimated that Verizon's LTE network will cover 185 million people by the end of the year, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Ronald Gruia.
Gruia reported Small's remarks while he gave a speech today during Ericsson's North American Analyst Forum in San Jose, Calif. If Small's estimate is accurate it will mean that Verizon has added about 75 million new points of presence (POPs) since it launched its LTE network in December 2010. Verizon has been aggressively expanding the reach of that network by firing up services in dozens of new markets covering tens of millions of people. Two weeks ago, Verizon announced that the network now covers more than half the U.S. population.
LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says will deliver consistent speeds in the 100Mbps range. Verizon became the first major U.S. carrier to deploy LTE last year when it launched the technology in 38 major markets covering roughly one-third of the U.S. population. The carrier plans to have its entire current 3G footprint upgraded to LTE by the end of 2013.
Rival carrier AT&T plans to launch its own LTE services in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago and Atlanta in the near future, with additional plans to launch in 10 more markets by yearend. Until recently, AT&T has waited patiently to get its LTE network up and running, as the carrier has consistently tried to get more mileage through upgrading its current HSPA+ network. But while HSPA+ does deliver significantly higher speeds than legacy HSPA or EV-DO Rev. A 3G networks, it is simply no match for LTE as a mobile broadband technology. A test released this year by PC World showed that Verizon's LTE laptop air cards provided average download speeds of 6.5Mbps and average upload speeds of 5Mbps, while HSPA+ networks such as those used by AT&T and T-Mobile delivered download speeds in the 2Mbps to 4Mbps range.