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Verizon doubling 4G LTE sites by the end of 2012

The company told Dow Jones Newswires that it will be able to cover 260 million Americans by year's end, up from its initial estimate of 250 million people.

Verizon Wireless is poised to reach many more Americans this year with its 4G LTE service.

Speaking to Dow Jones Newswires in an interview published yesterday, Verizon Chief Technical Officer David Small said that the company will have "at least 400 markets" equipped with 4G LTE by the end of the year. Verizon currently has about 200 sites around the U.S. covering 200 million Americans. With the new rollout, the company hopes to have 260 million Americans covered.

If Verizon can pull that off, it'll put the company far ahead of its chief competitor, AT&T, which only expects to cover about 150 million Americans this year.

The 4G LTE race is expected to heat up even more on Friday when Apple's new iPad launches nationwide and becomes the first from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to support the high-speed mobile connection. Customers who buy the new iPad will need to choose between one version that can connect to Verizon's network and another than will connect to AT&T's service; Apple is not letting users switch between the networks at will.

Small told the Journal that just 5 percent of his company's customers are currently using 4G LTE. But has history has shown, Apple has a tendency to turn markets upside-down. The new iPad will almost certainly draw more customers to 4G LTE, and as the year progresses and other 4G-equipped devices launch, even more folks are expected to join the high-speed networks.