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Verizon's latest LTE expansion: 5 things you should know

With major markets covered, Verizon starts expanding LTE to midsize metropolitan areas

By Brad Reed, Network World
June 14, 2011 03:21 PM ET

Network World - Now that Verizon has fired up its LTE network in the major U.S. cities, the carrier is now concentrating on midsize metropolitan areas.

So if you're in a midsize market and have been clamoring to try out Verizon's LTE services, we've made a list of five key things you should know before deciding to invest:

1) Verizon is expanding its LTE network to 19 new metropolitan markets this coming Thursday. The big names here are Sacramento, Calif.; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Salt Lake City and Hartford, Conn. The other markets are Fresno, Calif.; Boise, Idaho; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Flint, Mich.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Lansing, Mich.; Dayton, Ohio; Erie, Pa.; Harrisburg, Pa.; State College, Pa.; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Spokane, Wash.; and Madison, Wis.

Verizon's expansion of LTE services to 19 different areas marks its largest one-day expansion since it first launched its LTE services late last year in 38 major markets. The carrier has been slowly extending the reach of its LTE network throughout the year, as it began offering LTE services in smaller markets in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and the Carolinas this past April.

The carrier plans to have its entire current 3G footprint upgraded to LTE by the end of 2013.

2) Verizon's network is currently the fastest mobile broadband network available from any major wireless carrier. Initial tests of the LTE network showed data downloads frequently topping 10Mbps in most major markets, although these tests were run when the network had just started and didn't have much congestion to deal with. A test released in March by PC World showed that Verizon's LTE laptop air cards provided average download speeds of 6.5Mbps and average upload speeds of 5Mbps.

None of the other big-name wireless networks -- Sprint's WiMax network and T-Mobile and AT&T's HSPA+ networks -- consistently offer that kind of download speed. However, AT&T will be getting into the LTE game later this summer when the carrier starts offering LTE services in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

3) Verizon's LTE data plans are capped. Verizon so far has offered two capped data plans: one for $50 per month that offers 5GB of data consumption and another for $80 per month that offers 10GB of data consumption. While users are allowed to go over their monthly limits on both plans, Verizon says it's going to charge users $10 per GB of extra data consumed. The carrier sends users text alerts when they reach certain monthly data thresholds, informing them when they have consumed 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% of their monthly data allowance.

The only carrier to offer an unlimited mobile data plan on its 4G network has been Sprint, which lets users gobble up as much data as they want on its WiMax network for $50 a month.

4) Be wary of investing in LTE smartphones right now if you need something with a long battery life. By most accounts, Verizon's LTE smartphones -- including the HTC ThunderBolt, the Samsung Droid Charge and the LG Revolution -- are high-caliber Android-based devices that will give you the fastest mobile Web service of any smartphones around. But those high-powered data speeds for now also come at the expense of efficient battery usage: The ThunderBolt, for instance, has less than five hours of battery life. All indications are that batteries for LTE phones are rapidly improving but you still might want to hold off on getting one if you need a phone that can go a long time without charging. In such cases, your best bet would be to buy one the USB laptop LTE modems that Verizon offers from Novatel, Pantech and LG.

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