At CTIA, a few details on the company’s most up-to-date LTE deployment plans, and it sounds like things are pretty well locked into place at this point. Tony Melone, the company’s Senior Vice President and CTO, seemed remarkably enthused that a bona fide LTE network would be launching “in the not too distant future,” and when pressed for specifics, he stated that they would launch “25 to 30 networks this year, covering one third of America by the end of 2010.” Beyond that, we’re looking at a footprint twice that size “15 months” after the initial rollout, and by the end of 2013, the company’s 4G coverage map will be the same size, “if not larger,” than its existing 3G map. Of course, the carrier insisted that they wouldn’t be abandoning 3G advancement while being fixated on 4G, noting that it was moving “fast and aggressively” on both fronts, with hopes that its LTE network would eventually eclipse even the 3G networks (in terms of coverage size) of competitors. Them’s bold words, VZW, and we’ll be carefully watching to see if that really does come to fruition.
About devices, for starters, VZW affirmed that data-centric devices would be splashing down on its commercial LTE network first, possibly as early as the end of this year. When we asked specifically what kinds of devices he meant, he stated that “aircards, USB data sticks and MiFi-type devices” would be first out of the chunnel, with smartphones being “about a quarter behind.” Naturally, we asked why there would be a delay, and he stated that getting a smartphone onto a new network is more difficult than a simple data-only product; there are obvious voice-related issues to work through that aren’t present when you’re only sucking down torrents, and it’ll take some time before full-on phones join the fray. He assured us the earlier data-only device launches wouldn’t be “a public trial,” and he noted that a conservative estimate as to when we’d see LTE phones on Verizon would be “the first half of 2011.” Though, he did confess that folks would likely be pushing for earlier ship dates, and we may see a few phones drop closer to January than July if all the stars align.