Verizon expects LTE handsets by mid-2011

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US operator debuts LTE services with USB dongles and claims a mid-2011 launch of compatible handsets is realistic

US network operator Verizon Wireless switched on its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network on December 5 in 38 major metropolitan areas and 60 commercial airports in the US, and stated it expects to sell consumer LTE handsets by mid 2011.

Verizon Wireless, the largest US operator and a 55/45 joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, said a third of Americans can access its LTE services using USB mobile broadband dongles, either from LG (VL600) or Pantech (UML 290). Both dongles cost $99.99 after a $50 rebate.

Verizon said the new service is “up to 10 times faster” than the company’s current 3G network, offering standard download speeds of 5-12Mbps and upload speeds of 2-5Mbps.

Around 50 contracts have been signed so far for commercial deployment of LTE services globally, and many fewer services have actually launched. So far, all live LTE networks are for mobile broadband usage with USB dongles only.

Verizon Wireless reckons compatible handset terminals will be available by the middle of 2011.

The company has made available two LTE plans initially – a 5GB monthly allowance for $50 per month, or a 10GB monthly allowance for $80 per month.

Verizon president and chief executive Dan Mead said: “ We are building our 4G LTE network with the same commitment to performance and reliability for which we have long been recognised.”

Mead said he expected Verizon’s LTE service to reach the majority of the country by 2013.

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