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Verizon LTE to focus first on business users

LTE smartphones coming in '11, but consumer data usage could be a concern

December 1, 2010 02:43 PM ET

Computerworld - Verizon Wireless will launch its faster Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless network in 38 cities reaching 110 million people on Sunday, with an initial focus on business users who deploy LTE over new $100 USB modems connected to laptops.

What's less clear is when actual smartphones will be sold by Verizon that are ready for advertised LTE download speeds of 5Mbit/sec. to 12 Mbit/sec. That speed is about 10 times faster than what Verizon currently offers.

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg recently said LTE smartphones will be launched by February, while Verizon CTO Tony Melone today said they would be ready by mid-2011, although he added that his timeline should not be taken as "any different" from Seidenberg's. More information on devices and release dates will be announced at next month's Consumer Electronics Show, Melone said.

The emergence of LTE smartphones will be important for Verizon's early success with LTE. Sprint Nextel's wireless WiMax network running over the Clearwire network supports two WiMax smartphones that function in 68 cities already, as well as laptop modems and other devices. Sprint puts its average download speeds with WiMax at 3Mbit/sec. to 5 Mbit/sec.

While business users and consumers will be able to buy the first USB modems for Verizon's LTE network on Dec. 5, Verizon seems more focused on laptop-centric business users in its marketing.

Dan Hays, a telecommunications consultant for PRTM in Washington, said LTE will be "very compelling for businesses" especially with the emergence of data-heavy applications such as video chat over wireless.

The first modem to be sold by Verizon will be an LG VL600, selling for $99.99 after a $50 rebate and a two-year contract. The LG modem will be followed by the Pantech UML290 soon, Melone said.

The modems and other devices will be sold with two-year plans that run $50 for 5GB of data per month and $80 for 10GB monthly. Both plans are not capped, Melone said, and users will receive four online updates about how much data they are using. Any overage will cost $10 per 1GB.

Melone called the two plans a way of reaching the broadest possible audience of business and consumer users. With LTE, a 10MB business presentation could be downloaded wirelessly in less than 10 seconds, Verizon officials said. That would be about 10 times faster than now.

Starting with USB modems that focus on business users will be a "safe way" for Verizon to launch the network, Hays said, since data usage could be very high -- especially with consumers on smartphones who stream audio and video. "There will be a large pent-up demand for smartphones on this network, and we expect Verizon will launch LTE smartphones building on the success of its Droid phones running Android," he said.



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