Report shows Verizon maintaining LTE lead through 2013

Verizon to maintain shrinking LTE lead through at least next year
If you’re a U.S. customer in 2011 and want to use a 4G LTE phone, your only real choice is Verizon  (if you’re a U.S. customer from some other year, let us know!). AT&T has started its first small wave of LTE rollouts, and smaller carriers like MetroPCS and U.S. Cellular have also started nascent LTE networks, but if you want LTE that will actually follow you, Verizon’s network is clearly in the lead.

According to a report by Fierce Broadband Wireless, Verizon will maintain that lead through at least the end of next year, and possibly throughout much of 2013, although its competitors will start to close the gap. By the end of 2013 Verizon has committed to expanding LTE to its entire network. Sprint plans to launch its first LTE handsets in the second half of next year, and continue to build out its network in 2013, but most likely will not complete a full network build-out that year.

AT&T has said it will “complete its deployment” of LTE in 2013, but hasn’t given a specific target for the size of that deployment, so it’s hard to assess how much of AT&T’s network the initial deployment will cover. 2013 is also when AT&T will be rolling out LTE-Advanced to the first markets. LTE-Advanced is a faster form of LTE. Of course their plans depend strongly on their T-Mobile acquisition, which seems unlikely in its current incarnation.

T-Mobile is likewise dependent on the proposed merger. At the least the deal will be postponed, so this could set back LTE plans for both networks, although T-Mobile could elect to cut a deal with Dish Network or anther expected LTE spectrum provider.

Clearwire intends to eventually expand LTE to cover a footprint similar to its current WiMAX deployment. Sprint’s plans include Clearwire by 2013, but it’s not clear how far along they will be in rolling out LTE at that time.

Most of the smaller networks will never have a large LTE footprint in the U.S., although LightSquared plans to cover Sprint’s entire 3G network by 2014, if they can solve regulatory issues stemming from network interference with GPS systems.

So plan your next contract accordingly. There are many reasons to select a U.S. carrier, but if having the maximum amount of LTE coverage is important to you, it looks like Verizon will be the best game in town for at least another year or two.

source: Fierce Broadband Wireless

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