News Analysis: Three of the four major U.S. wireless carriers are now claiming to offer 4G service. None are truly 4G services, but all are pretty fast.
Verizon Wireless will start offering LTE service, as well
as a couple of LTE-capable USB sticks, Dec.
5. The service will begin in 38 major metropolitan areas and 60 major
commercial airports, as has previously been reported in eWEEK.
By announcing the Dec. 5 launch, Verizon Wireless beat
its own deadline, which was originally the end of December. The LTE
, which Verizon Wireless is calling its "4G" service in
line with what has become industry marketing practice, will produce download
speeds from 5M to 12M bps, and upload speeds of 2M to 5M bps. This is somewhat
faster than the Sprint/Clearwire version of 4G and slightly slower than the
As Michelle Maisto points out in her eWEEK
story on the launch
, this is about 10 times faster than the existing
Verizon Wireless 3G network. The company predicts that it will be the largest
4G network in the United States
when it goes live.
As expected, Clearwire and T-Mobile disagree. Shortly
after the Verizon Wireless announcement Dec. 1, Clearwire released a grid
showing that it will have slightly more people covered than Verizon by the end
of the year. T-Mobile, in a statement released Nov. 30, is claiming that it
will cover nearly 200 million people-nearly twice Verizon's coverage-by the end
Both Sprint and T-Mobile point out in their respective
press releases that they each have two 4G phones (all of which are Android
devices) while Verizon has none. Verizon Wireless will be releasing those two USB
wireless sticks on the launch day, with two more to come later. Clearwire says it
has four of those, while T-Mobile has two, only one of which handles
the full HSPA+
speeds. Sprint is claiming 45 notebook or netbook computers
with embedded support; T-Mobile has one; and both companies point out that
Verizon has none.
We are, clearly, in one of those "mine is
better/bigger/faster/cooler than yours" modes in which we will be
bombarded constantly by press releases trying to explain all of this with a
spin that favors the sender, whoever that happens to be. You as customers will
likewise see a constant barrage of commercials from each of these companies
claiming to be the best in some way, but mostly confusing the issue with
The cost of service will probably be the second big area
of contention. Clearwire is quick to point out that its service is cheaper than
Verizon's, and that you get unlimited usage. However, Clearwire incorrectly
claims that Verizon doesn't allow unlimited use. In fact, customers do get
unlimited use as long as they've willing to keep paying the $10 per gigabyte
overage fees. T-Mobile isn't discussing fees right now, probably because the
company is planning a move to a new usage-based plan for 4G data.