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Verizon turns on LTE service in its 500th market, pushes VoLTE launch to next year

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Just a short two and half years ago, Verizon became the first US carrier to offer 4G LTE service when it deployed service in 38 markets. On Thursday, the carrier is announcing that it now covers over 500 markets with the speedy mobile broadband, a growth of 100 markets in just eight months. The network's 500th market is officially Parkersburg, West Virginia, but Verizon says that Liberal, Kansas and Warren, Pennsylvania are also getting LTE service today, pushing the total number of markets over 500. Verizon claims that its LTE service covers more than 99 percent of its 3G network and is available to more than 95 percent of the US population, or just over 298 million people.

While Verizon's main competitors — AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — have all deployed LTE networks of their own in the time since Verizon first launched, none of them can quite match the nationwide coverage that Verizon has attained. Recent networks tests (coupled with plenty of boasting from AT&T) have stated that AT&T has the fastest LTE network in the US, but it's coverage map is no match for Verizon's sheer footprint.

"We provide speed where you want it, when you want it."

And Verizon seems to be okay with that, at least for now. In a briefing with reporters, Verizon chief network officer Nicola Palmer said that the company isn't so concerned with raw speed, but rather a comprehensive level of service that balances speed and reliability. "It's about more than just speed, we provide speed where you want it, when you want it," contended Palmer. She also noted that Verizon's network consistently provides its as advertised speeds of 5-12Mbps down and 2-5Mbps up, and in many cases exceeds them.

Though Verizon has made a lot of headway in its LTE rollout, Palmer also revealed that the long-awaited deployment of voice over LTE (VoLTE) won't happen until 2014, later than prior estimates of by the end of this year. When VoLTE does finally arrive, we can expect it to be rapidly deployed across Verizon's network — it won't be a staggered rollout as we've seen with standard LTE service. Additionally, though Verizon has more or less covered its entire 3G network with LTE service, we won't see any LTE-only smartphones until the end of next year and it doesn't expect to refarm its existing 3G spectrum to LTE until 2015.