Battle for hearts, minds, pocketbooks warms up with Verizon 4G launch

Dec 2, 2010
Finance

2011 is shaping up to be a battle royal for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks those with a need for speed. The battle will reach a crescendo next year when Verizon (VZ) is expected finally to bust AT&T’s (T) monopoly on the popular iPhone 4 from Apple (AAPL). Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless said Wednesday it will […]

2011 is shaping up to be a battle royal for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks those with a need for speed.

The battle will reach a crescendo next year when Verizon (VZ) is expected finally to bust AT&T’s (T) monopoly on the popular iPhone 4 from Apple (AAPL).

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless said Wednesday it will launch its much-anticipated “4G LTE” wireless network on Sunday in 38 major metros and more than 60 airports.

Dan Mead, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless, said, “Our initial 4G LTE launch gives customers access to the fastest and most advanced mobile network in America and immediately reaches more than one-third of all Americans, right where they live. That’s just the start. We will quickly expand 4G LTE, and by 2013 will reach the existing Verizon Wireless 3G coverage area.”

Verizon said 4G service will be 10 times faster than 3G. Verizon said it expects 4G LTE average data rates in real-world, loaded network environments to be 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink

4G initially will be available via modem. Verizon starts its monthly 4G LTE Mobile Broadband data plan at $50.

Verizon will start with  one device for access to the network, a $99.99 USB dongle from LG Electronics after rebate with a two-year contract. Data plans for the network will start at $50 per month with a 5GB cap on downloads.

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All Things Digital notes that all 4G initially will be available on Windows PCs with the Microsoft (MSFT) OS and a Mac version is in the works.

(For the record: Strictly speaking, Verizon won’t meet 4G engineering standards. But this is a marketing war, not an engineering war. What Verizon and its rivals are saying is speeds are increasing.)

Go to www.verizonwireless.com/4Glte to see where the service will be available.

The first 4G handsets are expected in mid-2011.

Stephen Lawson said in PC World Verizon will be undercutting its own 3G plans as it goes after high-speed wireless subscribers.

Lawson notes that Verizon will charge $10 less per month for 4G than it charges for 3G plans with dongles, matching the company’s rate for 3G service on laptops and netbooks with built-in 3G modems.

He predicted a price war as Verizon takes on such competitors as T-Mobile and Sprint/Clearwire (DTEGY.PK, S)“It appears to me that their pricing is aimed at getting as many subscribers as possible locked in, using their service, and into contracts before competitors can roll out their networks to match Verizon’s growing footprint,” said Dan Hays, a partner at management consulting company PRTM. The carrier also wants to shift as many subscribers as possible to a single network, Hays said, though the 3G infrastructure is expected to remain for several years.”

But AT&T is seen as Verizon’s biggest target.

AT&T is listening. In a blog, AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan explained there is more than one acronym for speed.

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He said: “Our HSPA+ network and upgraded backhaul is expected to deliver speed performance similar to initial LTE deployments. That matters, because when we begin commercial deployment of LTE in mid 2011, customers on our LTE network will be able to fall back to HSPA+. As they do, they’ll receive a more consistent mobile broadband experience that supports simultaneous voice and data connections and higher speeds than the others can provide outside their LTE footprint.”

He said customers will not enjoy jarring changes in speed as they move to different areas in the country. “If they’re online and on the phone when they move to sites that don’t support simultaneous voice and data connections, they’ll drop one of those connections. And if they’re watching video, it’s not going to be pretty,” he forecast.

Meanwhile, Verizon is expected to take on AT&T in 2011 as it offers the first iPhone from Apple that’s not on the AT&T network. Verizon already sells an iPad cobbled with a wireless hot spot to take on AT&T.

Interesting times for carriers and consumers with a need for speed.

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