Verizon to add LTE service to 26 more markets Thursday

Activations coincide with sale of first Droid Bionic phones for LTE

Verizon Wireless will launch its 4G LTE network in 26 more cities Thursday, while expanding LTE service in San Francisco, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

Verizon said that Thursday's launches will bring to 143 the total number of markets in which it has activated LTE networks since it started rolling out the high-speed 4G service in late 2010.

The new markets include Daytona, Fla., Santa Barbara, Calif., and various cities in the country's midsection, from North Dakota to Texas.

The activations coincide with Verizon's rollout of the the new Droid Bionic smartphone, which went on sale Sept. 8 for $300 with a two-year contract.

The dual-core 1GHz Bionic from Motorola is one of 11 LTE-ready devices that Verizon sells. It comes with a 4.3-in. display and can be paired with a $300 LapDock that features a monitor and keyboard.

Other Verizon LTE smartphones are the LG Revolution, the Samsung Droid Charge and the HTC ThunderBolt. Certain models of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet are also capable of accessing the LTE network.

LTE is considered about 10 times faster than AT&T's existing 3G GSM network. According to Verizon, LTE supports average data rates of 5Mbps to 12Mbps for downloads and 2Mbps to 5Mbps for uploads.

Shortly after announcing it had reached half of the U.S. population with LTE service, Verizon on Aug. 22 gave advance notice that the 26 cities would start to get LTE networks on Sept. 15. In August, Verizon also had confirmed the expansion of LTE in Cleveland, but today officially added expansions in San Francisco and Indianapolis.

These locales are on the list of markets receiving LTE service Thursday: Fort Smith and Jonesboro, Ark.; San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Daytona, Fla.; Bloomington, Champaign/Urbana, Rockford and Springfield, Ill.; the Quad Cities, Ill./Iowa; Iowa City, Iowa; Shreveport, La.; Kalamazoo and Saginaw, Mich.; Reno, Nev.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Fargo, N.D.; Canton, Lima and Mansfield, Ohio; Dyersburg, Tenn.; the Tri-Cities, Tenn./Va.; and Austin, Beaumont/Port Arthur, Wichita Falls and El Paso, Texas.

Rival AT&T is also rolling out faster LTE service in addition to faster HSPA+ service, and it expects to launch LTE in 15 markets by year's end.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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