Verizon Wireless will hit the century mark with its 4G LTE next week, covering 100 markets with its speedy next-generation network.
Tulsa, Okla., will be the 100th market covered by Verizon's new network, which will officially be announced on July 21. The carrier will have hit the milestone after only eight months of network rollouts, compared with the 25 months it took to cover 100 markets with its 3G network.
The speed of the deployment and contrast with the slower 3G rollout is indicative of the surging demand by consumers on wireless data services. Consumers are increasingly gravitating towards higher connection speeds, and are willing to pay a premium for the service.
"Their strategy is clearly to win the race to the top," said Daniel Hays, a director at management consulting firm PRTM. "They are taking full advantage of the lead they have over the other national operators in rolling out a true 4G network to as many subscribers as possible."
Hays notes that while 100 markets isn't significant from a larger perspective, the century mark likely steals a bit of the thunder away from AT&T, which is poised to launch its own 4G LTE network in five cities this summer. On Tuesday, the company unveiled its first two 4G LTE products, a laptop card and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
"It risks making AT&T's impending announcement a non-event," Hays said.
AT&T argues that its gradual move to 4G is better for customers because its faster 3G network makes for a better transition.
"Our customers will have the benefit of access to both our LTE network and our HSPA+ network," Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices for AT&T, said in an e-mail on Tuesday. "This will provide a much more compelling and consistent speed experience as customers travel across our network."
Critics have argued that Verizon needs to build its 4G LTE network faster because its 3G network offers a slower connection than its AT&T counterpart.
Verizon's strategy has been to get its 4G network out early and lock in consumers to long-term contracts before AT&T can get its own 4G LTE network running. The plan appeared to have paid off in the second quarter, with many expecting the carrier to report strong customer growth.
The faster deployment is also crucial for Verizon because the wider deployment and customer adoption will lure in more manufacturers to build 4G LTE products. With only a few such deployments in the world, most telecom equipment vendors still have many of their resources devoted to building 3G products.
On Tuesday, the company opened its Verizon Innovation Center near Boston, which is designed to help companies build products for Verizon's 4G network.