Verizon Wireless to Light Up 38 Cities With LTE in 2010

Verizon Wireless (s vz) plans to roll out 4G LTE in 38 cities by the end of this year, reaching 110 million people in metro areas including New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area.

While Verizon trails the deployment of Sprint’s (s s) 4G WiMAX network, the initial rollout will be more impressive, covering a third of the U.S. population and almost every major metro area as well as 62 airports.

“These are major markets and we’re covering them in a major way,” said CEO Lowell McAdam.

Verizon is promising download speeds of 5-12 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2-5 mbps. The carrier plans to show LTE phones, laptops and machine-to-machine devices from major manufacturers at CES in January with availability in the first half of next year. Initially, look for 4G USB laptop cards at launch.

McAdam said the long-term plans call for Verizon to cover 200 million users by the end of 2012, and more than 285 million users by the end of 2013. He said Verizon has signed deals with five rural carriers for roaming agreements, and another dozen operators are on tap to partner with Verizon for rural rollouts of LTE.

McAdam said the 700 MHz spectrum touches all parts of the country and will enable easy roll out of devices. The network should perform just as well indoors as the current 3G system, said Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Malone.

Sprint’s 4G network, which launched almost a year ago, now covers more than 50 cities and will hit New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco by the end of this year, covering about 120 million people. Meanwhile, AT&T (s att) plans to launch its LTE network by mid-2011 and cover up to 75 million people by the of next year.

It’s good to see Verizon aggressively roll out 4G. While Sprint has covered some major cities like Chicago, Washington, Houston and Dallas, the measured expansion has yet to cover the biggest markets, making the 4G roll out feel more like a regional launch, rather than a national campaign. Having the ability to hit dozens of the biggest cities on day one should catch the attention of many consumers and should help the carrier attract a lot of device makers.

This will be an exciting time for consumers itching for more speed. The networks will provide great performance for video and other applications, and could enable even more reliance on cloud services.

Just be prepared to pay for it. McAdam did not release pricing details but reiterated that unlimited buckets of data will eventually give way to tiered data pricing. Even with the added capacity of 4G, there’s only so much to go around, he said.

“Clearly over time we will be migrating to a bucket of megabytes and gigabytes approach and people will buy what they need,” he said.

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user nahkahousu