Will Verizon’s LTE require you to buy a 3G contract?

With one month to go in 2009, we still haven’t heard anything official about those live Long Term Evolution (LTE) trials that Verizon is supposed to be conducting in Seattle and Boston before the end of the year. But from repeat visits to the Verizon LTE informational website we are now learning that if and when Verizon does actually launch commercial LTE services, you will probably have to pony up for a “hybrid” 3G/4G plan that offers benefits both for potential users and for Verizon itself.

Before we get to the thinking that got us here, first the benefits: For the end-user, a hybrid plan is a smart deal, especially if you are a true road warrior who visits multiple markets, or if you only visit 4G-covered markets some of the time. We expect the current 3G/4G hybrid plans in the WiMAX world, offered now by partners Clearwire, Sprint and their cable pals, including Comcast, to expand during 2010 as more big cities get added to the WiMAX coverage list. It just makes sense — if you are truly mobile, staying connected is usually the prime objective, with speed a secondary factor. But if the hybrid plan doesn’t cost too much more (like the current WiMAX plans) and you might make use of the 4G connection, it seems like a no-brainer to go the combined route.

Why do we think Verizon will offer LTE in a similar fashion, perhaps without any option to just buy an LTE service plan? Two reasons — one, any company making a big stink about its “big map” network isn’t going to launch something that you can only use in a handful of markets; and two, if you parse the prose on the Verizon LTE site they are speaking as if a 3G/4G option was the only thing imaginable. To wit:

Verizon Wireless’ LTE network will co-exist and integrate with the current Evolution Data Optimized (EVDO) RevA network. It will also support handover to existing mobile networks, thereby providing seamless coverage to Verizon Wireless subscribers from the time of its deployment.

That is, of course, seamless in the sense of those subscribers having no other option but to also subscribe to that “existing mobile network” when they sign up for LTE. While we do think this is not a bad thing for users, it is also a bit of a sham by Verizon, since by making the combo necessary they won’t have any contracts that don’t offer “nation-wide” service. Remember this is all a guess because despite this wonderful LTE info site, when it comes to actual LTE plan details like when, where, and how much, Verizon is about as forthcoming as Tiger Woods these days.

And it may just be us, but has anyone else noticed some subtle adds, changes and deletes to this page over the last month since we first spotted it? Like the now-official backpedal of “mid-to late-2010” as its launch timeframe for its first 25 to 30 LTE markets? (Bonus contest — see if you can find the extra typo period before Verizon’s copy editors re-clean the page!) Not sure that has been said anywhere publicly before, but this page bears watching over time since it seems to be a place for Big Red to sneak out LTE messages without too many people watching. Other than us, that is. 🙂

(Verizon LTE page screen grab below.)

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About Paul Kapustka

Paul Kapustka is a longtime journalist who has spent more than two decades covering the information technology business, Paul most recently has been focusing on mobility and how it has changed the computing and collaborative landscape. His newest project outside Mobile Enterprise 360 is a research and analysis operation called WiFi Journal. He is also editor in chief of Mobile Sports Report, which covers the intersection of mobile technology and sports business. Paul is also the founder of Sidecut Reports, a research firm that covered the emergence of 4G technology in the cellular marketplace.


  1. Glenn Fleishman says

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about: I spoke to Verizon in August for a Seattle Times article about what they described as successful Boston and Seattle tests back then. Were you looking for something else?

  2. Yup, the actual live market trials that Verizon said were supposed to happen before the end of 2009. This was supposed to be something substantial and measureable, a full city network operating, and not just a press-release “test” that nobody could prove happened other than Verizon PR.

  3. My question is what will happened to verizon’s network and reception as they switch to gsm. If they do a full switch then they are going to have to run two seperate networks which is going to be very costly. I think this is going to be an interesting change over.