Verizon Wireless has just passed an important milestone. Only 8 months after turning on their 4G LTE network, they’ve managed to cover 160 million Americans in 117 cities with high speed wireless access. That’s half the population of the United States. The speeds they provide are nothing to laugh at either. In a nationwide test conducted by PC Mag earlier this summer, they found that average download speeds on Verizon’s network hovered around 8.8 megabits per second, which falls in line with the 5 to 12 megabits per second Verizon advertises. The second fastest network, T-Mobile, who uses HSPA+ technology, came in at less than half that; just 3.6 megabits per second. Now some might point out that Verizon’s 4G LTE smartphones have below average battery life, but that’s a problem that time will fix. Similar to how poorly the first 3G mobile phones performed when initially introduced, but then gradually got better through the years, the same story will be seen with 4G LTE.
Curiously, AT&T has yet to launch their LTE network. They’ll do it at some point in the summer, hopefully, and the first devices they plan on offering consumers will be nothing more than USB modems and WiFi hotspots, similar to Verizon’s early LTE days; when it comes to smartphones … that’s a whole other discussion. Rumors say that they’ll be AT&T LTE phones out by the end of this year. As of today there are only 4 months and 2 weeks for those rumors to prove themselves true or false.
The elephant in the room is of course how operators will make voice and SMS work over LTE, something that no LTE operator with a fully operational commercial network has yet done. It’s because of this hangup (pardon the pun) that devices with dual cellular modems, one to connect to the 3G/2G network and one for the 4G network, need to be created, and thus the poor battery life.
We can’t wait to see how 4G evolves, it really is the bleeding edge of what’s possible.