Tracking Verizon's Shifting Statements on LTE

[qi:gigaom_icon_4G] Something, perhaps an Apple tablet or maybe a need for speed, has lit a fire under Verizon (s Vz), which is expecting to complete its rollout of its fourth-generation wireless service faster than previously reported.  In its second-quarter conference call yesterday, Verizon President and COO Denny Strigl said the carrier would have 100 million people covered by 2010 and that trials of the Long Term Evolution network would begin later this year in Boston and Seattle. (Take that, Clearwire.) From the transcript:

On your LTE question, maybe it would be helpful if I just clarified our current game plan with LTE, so we plan to conduct LTE trials in Seattle and in Boston later this year. We’re working on a launch of commercial LTE services in up to 30 markets next year. Our plan is to cover 100 million pops. In 2011 and 2012, we’ll continue to expand significantly with the ultimate goal being to cover all of our pops with this great product by the end of 2013.

In May, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdams said the carrier would finish its LTE deployment by 2014, but that the provider was beginning commercial rollouts in the second half of 2010 — a contradiction of earlier statements from the carrier that said commercial launch would begin in the first half of 2010. These contradictions may seem minor, but it’s a big deal if you’re trying to use it to bolster a story about a Verizon/Apple tablet launch.

This back and forth over the timing isn’t all that surprising, given how much media attention has been given to the rollout of LTE, which will offer much faster mobile broadband speeds. In addition to launching a new network, based on GSM rather than the familiar CDMA standard, Verizon had to wait while its 700 MHz spectrum to be used for LTE was vacated by  television stations. That took four months. For those of you following along in the playbook, here are Verizon’s statements regarding LTE in the last year.

Aug. 13, 2008: Verizon said it will roll out the network in 2010 and cover most of the country by 2012.

Dec. 10, 2008: Verizon said it would deploy LTE in 2009.

Jan. 27, 2009: Verizon said it hopes to have LTE commercially available by the first half of 2010.

Feb. 18, 2009: Verizon said LTE will be commercially deployed in 2010 with handsets coming in 2011.

May 15, 2009: Verizon said it plans to launch LTE commercially in the second half of 2010.