By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson, Ap Technology Writer – Wed Dec 1, 2:01 pm ET
NEW YORK – Verizon Wireless says its new "4G" wireless broadband network will start accepting customers on Sunday in 38 cities.
Initially, only laptop users will be able to take advantage of the higher data speeds offered by the network, compared with Verizon's 3G network. The speeds are somewhat higher than those offered by T-Mobile USA's and AT&T Inc. where their 3G networks have been upgraded to the highest speeds.
In a surprise, Verizon is charging less for 4G than for 3G. One data plan will cost $50 per month for 5 gigabytes of data, compared with $60 for 3G.
Another plan will provide 10 gigabytes of data for $80 per month. Verizon Wireless' chief technology officer, Tony Melone, said he expects many customers will find 5 gigabytes isn't enough. When downloading at top 4G speeds, it takes about an hour to exhaust a monthly allotment of 5 gigabytes of data.
Only Windows PCs will be able to take advantage of the network, at first. On Sunday, Verizon will start selling a USB dongle from LG Electronics Inc. for $99 with a two-year contract. It will fall back on Verizon's 3G network where there is no 4G coverage. There's no Macintosh software for the dongle yet.
Melone said Verizon should have 4G smart phones available by next summer.
Verizon had already revealed where the network will be available first. The coverage areas include the cities on the Boston-to-Washington stretch as well as in California, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Seattle.
Verizon is using a 4G, or "fourth-generation," wireless technology called Long-Term Evolution that looks set to be an industry standard. Sprint Nextel Corp. subsidiary Clearwire Corp. already has an active 4G network that uses a different standard, WiMax.
Melone said the network will provide download speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second, and upload speeds of 2 megabits to 5 megabits per second.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.