On Wednesday, Verizon Wireless announced the 38 markets in which it plans to launch LTE, its 4G network. Verizon's LTE network will get off the ground a full six months ahead of AT&T's, which has targeted a launch by the middle of 2011.
You know what Verizon Wireless isn't doing? Upgrading the speeds of its CDMA EVDO 3G network (according to AT&T). Verizon's CDMA EVDO Rev. A network tops out at 3.1Mbps, and that's where it will stay.
AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom said in an email to InformationWeek, "Verizon is moving straight to LTE and not increasing their 3G speeds, so their customers will have a jarring drop-off in performance when not in an LTE service area – speed, sure, but also simultaneous voice/data, etc."
AT&T believes that Verizon's approach will lead to customer service problems, and that its own slow-and-steady speed improvement approach is superior.
Bloom continued, "In contrast, because we are building LTE while at the same time continuing to increase 3G speeds, our customers can expect to have a much better experience when they’re not in a 4G area. [This] will be vitally important for the customer experience no matter the carrier."
Verizon Wireless' LTE network will reach download speeds between 5 and 12Mbps, and upload speeds of 2 to 5Mbps. While 12Mbps is surely faster than 3.1Mbps, I think AT&T is overstating the performance issue a bit. Sure, speeds will drop as Verizon customers move between LTE and EVDO, but Verizon's EVDO network is solid as hell, and fast enough for most professionals' business needs when not under LTE coverage.
AT&T also happened to beat Verizon to announcing actual LTE hardware. Where Verizon said hardware announcements are forthcoming, AT&T announced an HSPA+ and LTE-compatible laptop dongle that can access the fast network speeds.
When asked for comment about plans to upgrade its 3G network speeds, Verizon Wireless spokesperson Jeffrey Nelson dropped this knowledge, "We have a proud history of meeting and exceeding market demands on our wireless networks. We build our networks for success right from the start and aren't surprised when we succeed in the marketplace. And we constantly improve them. It's just not enough to address your network problems by promising to do better down the road."
"When choosing a wireless company, people want more than promises. Customers value our long-term track record for leading on network reliability, speed, coverage and capacity. By moving aggressively and becoming the first company on the globe to build a large-scale LTE network, we'll gain first-to-market advantages in the US, with a head-start of at least 18-24 months."