This week Verizon announced it will launch 4G service in 39 US markets, covering more than 100 million Americans and 60 airports by the end of 2010. Soon after, rival AT&T laid out a smackdown, saying Verizon needs to move fast because its 3G network is slower than AT&T's.
"We don't have the technical limitations of the CDMA network, so our path to LTE isn't 'delayed,'" AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom told PC Magazine.
Bloom's claim may have some merit
While AT&T's poor wireless coverage seemed to be butt of jokes in 2009, the carrier made a comeback in 2010.
According to PC World's 3G Wireless Performance Test, AT&T delivered significantly faster download speeds than other networks on average. (It also pushed its reliability: testers found a reliable connection 94 percent of the time, compared to 68 percent in 2009.)
Verizon's CDMA EVDO Rev. A network is limited to 3.1 Mbps downloads. AT&T's HSPA network has a theoretical maximum capacity of 7.2Mbps. The exclusive U.S. carrier of the iPhone (at least for now) is also planning to further boost speeds by upgrading much of its network to HSPA+, before launching 4G service sometime in 2011.
Even if Bloom has a point about Verizon's speed, it will be short-lived.
Verizon's new LTE network will be competitive, with download speeds somewhere between 5 and 12 Mbps. Upload speeds are projected to range from 2 to 5 Mbps.
The rollout will be aggressive, according to Verizon. More than 75 percent of residents in the 39 cities -- which include New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and San Francisco -- will have access to the service.
USB modems for laptops will be the first devices to connect to the service. Verizon plans to show off LTE smartphones and tablets at CES in January and expects to start selling them in the first half of the year. Phones will use 3G for voice and 4G for data service.