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Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday that it intended to activate its 4G network in the Chattanooga area on July 21, allowing customers to access what is the fastest wireless broadband in the U.S., the company said.
Chattanooga is part of the second wave of cities to receive wireless broadband. In 2010 Verizon flipped the switch in 38 major cities.
The Long Term Evolution network provides speeds up to 10 times more quickly than 3G, with average real-world downloads of five to 12 megabits per second and uploads of two to five Mbps. Verizon claims these speeds allow mobile surfing "twice as fast as any AT&T smartphone."
AT&T is upgrading to a mix of LTE and HSPA+, a slightly older standard more commonly known as 3.5G, according to Verizon's Karen Schulz.
But Cathy Lewandowski, a senior public relations manager for AT&T, said that by using a mix of HSPA+ and LTE, AT&T customers will have faster speeds sooner than with LTE alone. This is preferable to having higher speeds in some metropolitan areas, only to have bandwidth fall off a cliff in other areas, she said.
Verizon has been planning its LTE rollout since 2008 when it spent $4.7 billion to purchase 700 MHz of spectrum in a Federal Communications Commission auction. The wireless giant has spent billions more upgrading base stations and fiber-optic wires in Chattanooga and other cities.
However, only a few 4G phones are capable of accessing the new network, and phones will switch back to 3G automatically when they leave the 4G coverage area.
Verizon offers only three LTE phones, two mobile hotspots and a smattering of 4G modems that allow laptops to surf wirelessly, according to the company's website.
Still, the company plans to completely replace its 3G network with 4G LTE by the end of 2013.
In the Chattanooga area, the service will be available in Bakewell, Birchwood, Collegedale, Dayton, East Ridge, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgetown, Harrison, Hixson, Lakeview, Lookout Mountain, Ooltewah, Red Bank, Ringgold, Rossville, Sale Creek, Shepherd and Soddy Daisy.
Jerry Fountain, president of the Carolinas/Tennessee region for Verizon, called it "making the best network even better."
"The activation of our lightning-fast 4G LTE network in Chattanooga is further evidence of our commitment to and investment in the residents of this area," Fountain said.
The new network, which cost billions to build, is designed from the ground up to enable mobile video conferencing and speedy transfer of large movies or streaming music, according to Verizon.
T-Mobile has indicated that it has no immediate plans to launch LTE, sticking instead with HSPA+, though nothing is settled until a proposed merger with AT&T is complete.
Sprint uses a competing standard, WiMAX, which is incompatible with other networks and isn't yet available in Chattanooga. Sprint has, however, launched WiMAX in Nashville.
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at email@example.com or 423-757-6315.