Verizon to blow past year-end 4G target, covering 417 markets

The company extends its lead with the next-generation wireless service, giving it an optimal selling point for the iPhone 5.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
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Verizon's imposing booth at CES 2012
Verizon has been pretty vocal about its LTE lead. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Verizon Wireless said today that it would surpass its year-end goal of blanketing 400 markets with 4G LTE two months ahead of schedule.

On October 18, the company will have covered 417 U.S. markets with its super-fast wireless network, extending its overwhelming lead over the other carriers. Its 4G LTE was the focal point of the carrier's presentation at the MobileCon wireless trade show this week.

Despite the speedy work, it's sticking with its target of completing the full upgrade by the end of next year, in which its 4G LTE coverage will be comparable to its current 3G network coverage.

4G LTE has become an increasingly important weapon in the battle to win over customers. Every carrier has begun deploying 4G LTE, or at least committed to it, but Verizon has by far the largest deployment. The focus on faster coverage is heightened even further with the introduction of the iPhone 5, the first iPhone able to tap into LTE.

Nicola Palmer, vice president of network and chief technical officer for Verizon, said the launch of the iPhone 5 had "gone well," and that the company had worked with Apple to get an accurate estimate of the usage pattern. Despite the influx of iPhone 5 devices hitting the market, the network hasn't buckled under the pressure.

"We're not running that close to the edge," she said.

Palmer, in an interview with CNET, said people on the 4G LTE network use twice as much data as the average 3G customer.

"It's really transforming how we communicate, live, and work," she said.

Verizon is planning a celebration in Marquette, Mich., the 400th market to get 4G LTE. The company has been aggressive in trumpeting its quick build out.

In comparison, AT&T has 76 markets covered, while Sprint Nextel is in 15 cities. T-Mobile USA, which recently agreed to merge with MetroPCS, said it will start building its 4G LTE network next year.

AT&T and T-Mobile, meanwhile, argue that they offer more coverage of their own version of "4G," an older technology called HSPA+ that is faster than the 3G coverage provided by Verizon.

While Verizon got to its goal ahead of time, Palmer said the company won't be changing its forecast for the full completion date. She added that much of the network rollout next year will be focused on extending existing markets.

The recent run of deployments added 21 new markets. In addition, the company expanded coverage in 36 existing markets.

Corrected at 1:30 p.m.: Verizon added 21, not 20, new markets to bring its total 4G LTE markets to 417, not 416.

Here's a list of the new cities:

Gadsden, Ala.; Chico/Oroville, Calif.; Owensboro, Ky.; Waterville/Augusta, Maine; Marquette, Mich.; Brainerd and Fergus Falls/Alexandria, Minn.; Hattiesburg and Laurel, Miss.; Columbia, Mo.; Norfolk and North Platte, Neb.; Clovis, N.M.; Jamestown, N.Y.; Bend and Medford/Grants Pass, Ore.; Amarillo and Victoria, Texas; Aberdeen and Walla Walla, Wash; and Morgantown, W. Va.

Here are the existing cities getting extend coverage:

Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Bakersfield, Fresno and Los Angeles, Calif.; New Haven/Waterbury, Conn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Albany/Tifton, Athens and Gainesville, Ga.; Hilo and Honolulu, Hawaii; Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Idaho; Bloomington, Decatur/Effingham and Peoria, Ill.; Evansville, Ind.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Pittsburg/Parsons, Kan.; Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing, Mich.; St. Cloud, Minn.; Jackson, Miss.; Joplin and Kansas City, Mo.; Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M.; Albany/Schenectady, New York, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma, Wash.; and Casper/Gillette, Wyo.

Here are the market that will get 4G LTE by the end of the year:

Selma, Ala.; Blytheville, Ark.; Flagstaff, Nogales, Prescott and Sierra Vista/Douglas, Ariz.; Eureka, Calif.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Lewiston/Moscow, Idaho; Vincennes/Washington, Ind.; Fort Dodge and Ottumwa/Oskaloosa, Iowa; Petoskey, Mich.; Willmar/Marshall, Minn.; Butte, Mont.; Grand Island/Kearney and Hastings, Neb.; Lebanon/Claremont, N.H.; Farmington and Gallup, N.M.; East Liverpool/Salem, Ohio; Muskogee, Okla.; Pendleton and Roseburg, Ore.; Sumter, S.C.; Abilene, Texas; Keene, N.H./Brattleboro, Vt.; Kennewick/Pasco/Richland, Port Angeles, Wenatchee and Yakima, Wash.; and Riverton and Rock Springs, Wyo.