Verizon lays out West Virginia LTE plans

Senator Jay Rockefeller, a key player in telecom legislation, persuaded Verizon to give his state LTE this year

Verizon Wireless detailed its plans for LTE in West Virginia at an event on Wednesday that hailed the efforts of Senator John "Jay" Rockefeller, a key player in carrier regulation in Washington, D.C.

Verizon will roll out the high-speed wireless technology this year in a portion of downtown Charleston, the state's capital and largest city, and across downtown Charleston by the middle of next year. By the end of 2013, Verizon will offer LTE in eight other cities in West Virginia, including some that have never even had 3G service.

Rockefeller, who joined Verizon executives at a press conference in Charleston on Wednesday, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has overall jurisdiction over telecommunications and the Internet. He has been an advocate of net neutrality and is part of a group of Democratic lawmakers that has pledged to rewrite the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the landmark law that established much of the current regulation of carriers.

"Senator Rockefeller made a compelling case that West Virginians should be among the first in the nation to get the benefits of 4G service," said Tony Malone, Verizon's senior vice president and chief technical officer, according to a Verizon press release. Rockefeller said the new network would represent economic opportunity for the state's approximately 1.8 million residents.

Charleston will join major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco when it gets LTE this year as part of Verizon's initial commercial launch of the service in 38 markets. Verizon also plans to offer LTE in 55 U.S. airports by the end of this year.

The mountainous state has a large rural population and had a median household income of $37,528 in 2008, compared with $52,029 for the U.S. as a whole. It also ranks above the national average in people living in poverty and below the average for college graduates, with 14.8 percent of West Virginians holding a bachelor's or higher degree, compared with the national rate of 24.4 percent.

Verizon says its LTE network will deliver average data rates between 5M bps (bits per second) and 12M bps downstream, with upstream rates of 2M bps to 5M bps. Those rates are about 10 times the capability of 3G. The carrier expects to reach about 110 million potential customers with its initial rollout this year, 200 million by the end of 2012 and 285 million -- its entire current 3G map -- by the end of 2013.

In West Virginia, a network-building initiative by Verizon is expected to deliver high-speed wireless data of some form to 65 percent of the state next year. Cities including Morgantown, Fairmont and Martinsburg will leap to 4G without ever having had 3G service, according to Verizon.

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