Now that Verizon Wireless (s vz) has a speedy 4G network in 38 markets covering a third of the U.S. population, what will consumers do with it? For now, just two USB data sticks are available for notebook computers to use Verizon’s LTE, but over the next six months, that will change: the carrier today announced 10 new LTE devices, showing a glimpse of what’s possible on fast mobile broadband.
We expected a few LTE smartphones, and they were shown off today by three of Verizon’s partners. The LG Revolution, HTC Thunderbolt and a Samsung Galaxy handset will all appear in the first half of 2011. Voice will still be carried over Verizon’s CDMA network, but data will be routed over LTE, or in the case of a coverage gap, Verizon’s 3G network. The LG and Samsung devices features a dual-core processor while the Thunderbolt relies on the current 1 GHz Snapdragon chip. All three boast screen sizes of 4 to 4.3 inches and a front-facing camera, while the Revolution can double as a wireless hotspot
Skype’s CEO, Tony Bates, joined Verizon on the CES stage to tout the front-facing cameras and, more importantly, support for high-quality video calling on the 4G network to other 4G handsets, laptops, desktops, tablets and even connected televisions. HTC has integrated Skype directly into the Thunderbolt’s Sense UI, to promote seamless access to Skype contacts, complete with presence indicators.
In addition to an LTE handset, Samsung will also offer 4G versions of its Galaxy Tab tablet and a wireless hotpot device that can share the 4G connection with up to five additional devices. Not only does the new Tab gain a faster network, but the CPU is quicker too, running at 1.2 GHz. Also in the Verizon LTE device lineup are the Motorola Droid Bionic 4G handset and Xoom Android tablet, both of which were announced earlier in the show. Rounding out the device list are netbooks with integrated 4G radios from the HP (s hpq) and Compaq brands, and a Novatel Wireless MiFi (s nvtl).
Once devices arrive, customers will see much faster speeds on the network while mobile, so what does that mean for the experience? Verizon offered one example with partner EA Mobile, who introduced Rock Band Mobile for Verizon LTE phones. While the game can be played solo, groups of four can form a band over the LTE network, allowing for real-time, multi-player support in a single game.
That’s just one example of what Verizon thinks the LTE network brings to consumers: the idea is that whatever customers want to do, they won’t be waiting on the network. For now though, many will have to wait because Verizon’s LTE network covers only 38 markets. By the end of this year, the carrier expects to add 140 additional markets and should complete its full LTE rollout to all coverage areas within 36 months.
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