Verizon, ATandT LTE Expansion Arrives in Time for New iPad

New Apple iPad users will have a number of new markets in which to enjoy 4G LTE speeds, thanks to new deployments from AT&T and Verizon—which just passed its 200th market.

Verizon Wireless has good news for anyone planning on picking up the new 4G-enabled Apple iPad March 17. As of March 15, it's rolled out more than 200 Long-Term Evolution (LTE) markets, and is on track to double those efforts, and exceed 400 markets and 260 million people by the year's end.

Dothan and Enterprise, Ala.; Naples, Fla; Greenville, N.C., Altus and Durant, Okla.; and Longview/Marshall, Texas are now all aboard.

Coming up next are Washington, D.C.; Elkhard, Ind.; Baltimore; Columbus, Miss.; Northern N.J.; Wilmington, N.C.; Duncan, Okla.; Allentown/Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Cleveland, Tenn; Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas; and Kenosha, Madison and Milwaukee, Wis.

In real-world scenarios, Verizon expects its LTE users to experience downlink speeds of 5 to 12M bps and 2 to 5M bps on the uplink.

The Wall Street Journal's Walter S. Mossberg, testing the newest iPad, said he averaged LTE download speeds of more than 17M bps, while a colleague on AT&T's LTE network averaged over 12M bps. Combined with the iPad's new processor and graphics capabilities, added Mossberg, the effect is a "buttery smooth" user experience.

In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon executives said that all the phones it offered from that point on would be 4G-capable€”a comment that slipped the smallest secret about whatever iPhone Apple has planned for this year.

In an interview with Dow Jones March 14, Verizon CTO David Small reiterated this, saying that before 2013, Alaska (poor Alaska) will be the only state without Verizon 4G LTE service.

While third-ranking U.S. carrier Sprint now offers the iPhone, only AT&T and Verizon, with their LTE networks in various states of deployment, will offer the new iPad.

AT&T has been playing catch-up to Verizon's LTE efforts. Its failed bid to purchase T-Mobile, say analysts, set it further behind. On March 12, AT&T churned out two handfuls of press statements, announcing it would "soon" roll out 4G LTE in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.; Naples, Fla.; Bloomington, Lafayette and Muncie, Ind.; St. Louis; Akron, Canton and Cleveland, Ohio; Bryan-College Station, Texas; and the New York City borough of Staten Island.

In January, bringing its then-total to 26 markets, AT&T added 11 markets, including New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Where LTE isn't available, AT&T is quick to point out, customers may default to its also-4G Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) network, whereas on other networks they'd drop to 3G. Between these two flavors of 4G, it says it covers nearly 250 million people.

T-Mobile, the only top-four carrier without an Apple device in its portfolio, also has an LTE rollout in the works. The carrier plans to spend $4 billion€”most of it a sort of kill fee from AT&T, following its failed purchase€”on improving its voice and data offerings, which includes rollout and LTE and what it calls "refarming" a portion of its 1,900MHz PCS spectrum to support HSPA+ services.

A side benefit of that refarming effort, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in a recent interview on the T-Mobile blog, is that T-Mobile's network will be compatible with the Apple iPhone.

And, one hopes, someday a new Apple iPad.