Verizon’s got half the country covered with LTE

Verizon (s vz) is turning on its LTE network in 15 cities and expanding 4G coverage in 10 cities, bringing more than half the U.S. population under its next-generation wireless network on Thursday. Eight months after its initial launch, Verizon’s LTE network now covers 160 million people in 117 cities.

The expansion keeps Verizon well ahead of AT&T,(s t) which is preparing to turn on its LTE network and just announced two new LTE devices that will have to settle for HSPA+ until true 4G comes online. AT&T has plans to offer LTE service in five markets this summer, but it has not yet announced a launch date for its new network. Verizon expects to have 185 million consumers covered by the end of this year.

Verizon’s LTE network is advertising speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second on download and 2 to 5 Mbps for uploads. My colleague Kevin C. Tofel has gotten speeds at the top of Verizon’s advertised range in testing.

Verizon is touting its 700 MHz spectrum, which it said allows it to build a nationwide contiguous network, along with other advantages. The operator is also using its spectrum in conjunction with rural operators to bring LTE to 2.1 million consumers outside big cities. Verizon has been one of the world’s leaders in LTE, and it’s good to see that the company isn’t taking things too slowly with the 4G network rollout. That should light a fire under rivals and ensure that we see faster speeds across the U.S. from all carriers.