Verizon LTE network to go live Dec. 5

Verizon Wireless on Wednesday said its wireless high speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) network will become available in 38 cities on December 5.

Initially, customers will be able to use the network to connect to the Internet from their laptops, at prices starting at $50 per month for 5GB of data. Customers can also choose an $80 monthly plan that comes with 10GB. Each additional gigabyte over those limits will cost $10. They can choose from two USB modems, each costing $100 after a $50 rebate, to connect to the network. Additional modems will come within weeks, Verizon said.

Some observers had hoped that mobile handsets that work on the network would become available in the early months of 2011, but on Wednesday Verizon said they would go on sale in mid-2011. In October, Verizon said that it would announce six phones as well as tablets at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The USB modems are dual mode so they will work on Verizon’s 3G network for customers who travel outside of the 38 LTE markets.

The 38 markets span the country, with the largest region being southern California, said Tony Malone, Verizon’s senior vice president and chief technical officer.

Coverage will also extend to 60 commercial networks, most of which are in the 38 markets, Malone said.

Verizon still plans to cover its entire 3G network with LTE by 2013.

Verizon announced that it would launch LTE, which it says will offer download speeds ranging from 5M bps (bits per second) to 12Mbps, in 2009. “At that time we were not sure if we would be the first to offer LTE but what we are very confident of is that we are the first to offer LTE at the scale that will really make a difference,” Malone said.

Verizon was beat to market by regional operator MetroPCS, which launched its first LTE network in Las Vegas in September.

Starting Sunday, Verizon will display street level maps of the LTE coverage area at verizonwireless.com.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy’s e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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