Verizon Wireless LTE Announcement Launches 3-Way 4G Claim-fest

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 service, 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 T-Mobile version.

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 of December.

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 conflicting claims.

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.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...