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Verizon to switch on 4G network on Sunday, but not for smartphones

December 1, 2010 | 10:14 am

JimVerizon

Verizon Wireless said Wednesday that it would turn on its 4G wireless network Sunday in 38 U.S. cities, though the new network will not support smartphones until the first half of 2011.

Instead, the 4G network -- which the company says is up to 10 times faster than the current 3G network -- will start out with a pair of USB modems from LG and Pantech.  Those devices, which users can plug into their laptops to tap into 4G speeds on the go, will cost $99 with a $50 rebate and two-year data contract.

Those contracts will be priced at $50 per month for 5 gigabytes of data, or $80 per month for 10 gigabytes.  Verizon executives said nearly everyone would be accomodated by one of the two plans.

"It's a quantum, generational step up from what our customers experience today," said Verizon's vice president and chief technical officer, Tony Malone, in describing the company's 4G technology, which is called LTE, or Long Term Evolution. "We're the first to offer LTE at the scale that will really make a difference and kick-start the ecosystem and environment of 4G."

The network will be switched on in major markets such as Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Washington and Boston.  Because the network is still being built, it will only reach about one-third of the U.S., and the company urged potential buyers to check its website Sunday to see if their home or office areas will get a 4G signal.

Malone did not offer any details about upcoming 4G-capable smartphones, nor did he comment specifically on whether Verizon would add a version of Apple's popular iPhone.

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-- David Sarno

Photo: Jim Harper, a senior technician at a Verizon switch in the Los Angeles area, walks past a white LTE cabinet which holds the new 4G servers. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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