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LTE/4G connectivity

Boasting speeds four times as fast as current 3G networks, long-term evolution (LTE) is being deployed across the country by every wireless carrier in the United States.

It wasn't very long ago that we were obsessed about the expansion of 3G data networks, but 2012 showed us that the era of 4G had really arrived. And we can thank LTE, or Long Term Evolution, for getting us there. By delivering a faster data wireless connection for smartphones and tablets, LTE made it easier to update your social networks, download apps and games, and stream your favorite media.

Yes, LTE first appeared on the Verizon Wireless in 2010, and Sprint gave us 4G WiMax even before that, but this year brought a few important LTE milestones. On the carrier side, Verizon continued its aggressive expansion (it still has the most LTE markets nationwide), AT&T doubled its reach after a late start in 2011, U.S. Cellular's network went live in March, and Sprint finally ditched WiMax for LTE in June. And outside the United States, LTE expanded beyond its original home in Sweden and Norway with more carrier launches in Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Just as important, LTE handsets exploded in number. Android handsets led the way, but Apple finally went 4G with the iPhone 5, the iPad Mini, and the fourth-generation iPad. Now hold on to your hats for the next big thing, LTE-Advanced, which is expected to arrive in 2013.

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