The Long Term Evolution (LTE) ecosystem has evolved much faster than expected, noted Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam during the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference in San Francisco last week. As a result, the operator will introduce in 2011 tablets, smartphones and even connected devices.

He said that Verizon would show off its new devices at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

McAdam made those remarks after announcing that his company will launch LTE in 38 markets — which collectively have a population of more than 110 million — and provide at least 70% coverage in each of those markets before the end of 2010. (You can find a list of those markets here.) The launch includes 60 airports in these markets. McAdam said that Verizon would expand its footprint to cover roughly 200 million Americans by 2012, and to more than 285 million by 2013. The operator previously had indicated that it would launch 25 to 30 markets, covering about 100 million, by the end of this year.

Verizon also is looking to expand its footprint aggressively into rural markets. It previously announced its desire to share access with operators in rural areas using spectrum-lease agreements. McAdam said that some 200 rural operators have voiced their interest in partnering with Verizon. He added that Verizon has reached agreements with five operators and is in discussions with another 12. The idea is for Verizon to license its 700 MHz spectrum to the local carriers for a fee. The local carriers would then sell service and roam with Verizon, taking advantage of Verizon's purchasing power for infrastructure and devices.

Verizon said that users could expect download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps on a fully loaded network, and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink.

In terms of in-building coverage, the 700 MHz spectrum offers a propagation advantage, as does LTE because of the fact that such networks perform better at the cell edge, said Tony Melone, Verizon’s CTO.

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