The state of 4G LTE: Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T

The state of 4G LTE: Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T

Summary: With the 4G LTE rollouts of Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T in full force, lets take a look at how the carriers are faring in their efforts.

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If you have yet to hear about 4G LTE, chances are you will soon. The buzzword has become a major advertising point for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, and all three of the companies are going to be painfully vocal about their progress and intentions on the 4G LTE front in coming months and years.

But buzzword or not, 4G LTE actually means something -- though its admittedly not been made very clear what, exactly, that something is. In short, it's this: 4G LTE (also known as 4th generation Long Term Evolution) essentially means speed, more specifically, 5-12 megabytes per second on the download side of things. Compare that to the 3.1 Mbps speeds of the typical 3G network and it should be fairly clear why LTE is such a big deal in our increasingly data-hungry times.

Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T are all in the midst of developing and expanding their LTE networks, and all three have the same general goal: Offer as much coverage to as many people as possible. Lofty intentions, no doubt. Here's a brief look at how the carriers are doing.

See also: Gallery: The 10 best 4G LTE devices on Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon

Verizon

Verizon is, without a doubt, the most well along of the three carriers. As of April 19th, its 4G LTE network covers 230 markets and two-thirds of the U.S. population. By the end of the year, Verizon says that number will balloon to 260 million people across 400 markets.

As far as phone support goes, Verizon says that all of its phones this year will come equipped to run on its LTE network, which should probably give you a good idea of how serious it is about its efforts. Currently, the carrier offers just over twenty 4G LTE-ready devices, including eleven smartphones, five tablets, a smattering of mobile hotspots, and pair of notebooks.

AT&T Launched in September 2011, AT&T's LTE network currently covers 32 markets, which is respectable but far, far less expansive than what Verizon currently offers. The carrier expects its rollout to be complete by the end of next year, when subscribers can expect similar coverage to what AT&T currently provides with 3G.

But what AT&T lacks currently in rollout it makes up for in speed, at least according to PCWorld. The publication found that download transfer speeds on AT&T's network averaged at 9.56 Mbps, which was a tad higher than the 7.35 Mbps speeds on Verizon's network. Those numbers may not mean much at this juncture, of course, seeing has how Verizon's network is older and much larger than AT&T's own. That, of course, didn't prevent AT&T from gloating about it.

So far, AT&T offers roughly nine 4G LTE-ready phones, and a trio of tablets, including the iPad.

Sprint

Having just last year deciding to scrap its WiMAX efforts, Sprint's LTE network is, predictably, still in its most nascent of stages. The carrier plans to launch the service in six cities -- Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Kansas City, and Baltimore -- by the middle of the year, though there's some recent speculation that cities like New York City, Akron, Chicago, Fort Worth and Nashville will also see the network early on.

As far as plans go, Sprint says it intends for its LTE network to cover 123 million people by the end of this year, and 250 million by the end of 2013.

That's all well and good, but the fact remains that Sprint's LTE network has yet to launch, and when it does appear it will do so in a fairly limited fashion. Still, there's hope. If Sprint keeps announcing impressive devices like the EVO 4G LTE, the carrier will certainly be able to keep up with the more developed networks of AT&T and Verizon. Or so it hopes.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Verizon

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9 comments
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  • Yep

    And yet, a certain fruit branded company and their fans want us to believe that this technology isn't wide spread enough to justify adding LTE to their phones.
    slickjim
    • iphone

      It wasn't wide spread enough....a year ago when the iphone 4s was being designed. It is now. The next iphone will have 4GLTE. The curent iPad already has it.
      bkohler
    • hmm

      if only you had waited 5 months...
      lief3304@...
  • I hope Sprint gets better

    Verizon is clearly managed better than ATT. Sprint was doing well until the whole WiMax thing. Verizon has positioned itself very well between its wireless service, FIOS and DSL. If Sprint can get more subscribers and solidify itself as a viable 3rd option, it will be good for the customers and for competition.
    TheWhat
  • You wish!

    5-12 MB/s??? Yeah right?

    You mean like if you're the only one with a 4G phone in the area and you're standing on the roof that has the LTE tower?
    rasmasyean
    • Exactly

      I don't understand these claims of speed. I've had my RAZR since January, and I have loads of SpeedTest-dot-net reports that show I'm lucky to get one Mbps!

      I work in midtown NYC.

      I've complained to Verizon repeatedly and they always answer with things like "Are you indoors?" Of course I'm indoors! I'm at work! It's not like I work in a bank vault though. I'm on the 35th floor less than 3 feet from a huge window. If they can't figure out how to get a signal in here then their network isn't all that special.

      These speed claims absolutely infuriate me. Supposedly they're increasing capacity today, so we'll see if performance improves, but so far, 4G has left much to be desired for me.
      MichelliL@...
      • okay but

        The main thing you have to look at is the fact that it is faster. Noticeably faster. And if its not tethered, and used on the device it is faster then my home wifi connection.
        lief3304@...
  • Sprint LTE 4G

    Well, AT&T...Verizon has deployed their LTE networks. Sprint initially deployed the first 4G network in North America. They used a technology called WiMax, with collaboration with CLEAR. While Verizon focused on deploying their 4G network using LTE. They are both different technologies that can be face to face challenged, to bring High Speeds on a Wireless network. Sprint now is deploying their version of LTE in 6 markets. What people dont seem to understand is that Sprint is covering every aspect of Wireless Communication. They have enriched 3G service, including Roaming in the Verizon Network. They have Nextel technology which now they are optimizing it with more dependable network, they are now deploying LTE cell sites across cities in America. Also, they wanted to purchase Tmobile but it failed...Its Clear that Sprint want to optimize its network to cover every aspect, every technology and bring it to one company. This will be no sort of monolopy, because a company can bring people to a company with their plans. Which in fact Sprint have the best wireless plans under contract in America. They also have a strong share of prepaid services which now they will contribute to them WiMax. Which means they will have an advanced network that will deliver not just one technology but various technology. Every company have their own hypothesis, Claiming they are the superior network. In fact every company have dead spots, outages, ect ect. Remember its "Wireless" , its not "Wired". So it depends where you stand "Geographically", then you network can perform on its Prime. Sprint has been in business for a long time and it was the first company to deploy 3G and the first company to have NATIONWIDE COVERAGE! , Inch by Inch foot print. Being a Sprint customer, you have a lot of benefits. Roaming on Verizons Network, UNLIMITED DATA, BEST PHONES.
    AT&T may be 4 years ahead of VERIZON AND SPRINT in terms of the Iphone but both companies will catch up...
    VERIZON CAN CLAIM WHAT THEY WANT BUT IN FACT THEIR NETWORK IS SO LOW QUALIFIED.. VOICE AND TEXT STILL USES 1XLL WHILE SPRINT USES TXT OVER 3G OR 4G AND VOICE RUNS OVER IP WHICH MEANS INTERNET... REASON ON HOW SPRINT CANT DIFFERENTIATE WHATS ROAMING TO NOT...

    IM A SPRINT CUSTOMER FOR 10 YEARS AND IM PROUD OF MY SERVICE....NATIONWIDE AND INTERNATIONALLY....
    EXCELLENT CRISP CALLS...SO CLEAR I CAN HEAR ANY LITTLE SOUND IN THE BACKGROUND.....DEPENDABLE DATA NETWORK....BUT ALONG THAT I DO GET DROPPED CALLS WHICH IS RARE AND I DO TRAVEL A LOT NATIONWIDE...INCLUDING CANADA AND ALASKA.... AND DROP CALLS LIKE ANY OTHER COMPANY.... BUT HEY ITS A WIRELESS PHONE NOT WIRED...ITS OBVIOUS...

    UNLESS THERES A TOWER IN EVERY .10 Mi RADIUS THEN ITS DIFFERENT....


    BUT FOR NOW........
    I DONT CARE WHAT YOU SAY
    WHAT VERIZON SAYS
    WHAT ATT SAYS
    WHAT TMOBILE SAYS...
    THE FEWW
    THE PROUD
    SPRINT!
    ematos12
    • ...

      I don't know about your claims on Verizon, especially since you haven't been a customer of theres for at least 10 years. If my phone is sending texts over 1xll then i'll call that conservative, because Its not slow at all...
      lief3304@...