Verizon Wireless plans next week to expand its high-speed mobile data service to 11 more markets, including New York and Los Angeles, as well as 19 more airports.
The speedier laptop connections will be marketed only to businesses while the company adds coverage and readies services and devices for a consumer-oriented launch in 2005, Verizon Wireless said Wednesday.
However, consumers also will be able to sign up for the $80 a month unlimited service when it goes live on Monday.
To get online for e-mail, Web surfing and most anything else people do on the Internet, subscribers will need a special wireless card in their laptop computers. Handheld computers may be available for the service by year's end.
The expansion from three markets to 11 will push Verizon Wireless back into the lead by a wide margin in the U.S. deployment of broadband wireless Internet access. Earlier this month, AT&T Wireless introduced high-speed data service in Dallas and San Diego, expanding its coverage to six cities.
The race to upgrade cell phone networks with broadband data capability is costing billions of dollars for the nation's wireless companies in a bid to add customers and generate higher monthly fees.
In addition to Washington, San Diego and Las Vegas, Verizon's service will now be available in these markets: Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, Tampa and West Palm Beach in Florida, as well as New York and Los Angeles.
Verizon Wireless, owned jointly by Verizon Communicaions Inc. and Vodafone PLC, is promising downloads of 300 to 500 kilobits per second using "EV-DO" technology, rivaling the speed of entry-level DSL and cable broadband connections.
The AT&T Wireless service, based on a rival technology called "UMTS," is billed at speeds of 200-to-400 kbps.
Among other major carriers, Sprint is planning to deploy EV-DO service in some markets by the end of December with a broader rollout expected in 2005, while Cingular Wireless will expand its offerings through its impending acquisition of AT&T Wireless.
Verizon didn't offer specifics Wednesday on where and when it might roll out the service next, but said it was on target to double the coverage area of its EV-DO service by year-end to about a third of its national cellular network. In 2005, coverage is expected to double again to about two-thirds of the network.
The laptop modem card subscribers need costs $100 after rebates with a two-year contract or $150 with a one-year deal. The new card will be backwards compatible so that it can connect to Verizon's slower wireless network wherever the new technology is not available.
While $80 a month is considered too pricey for most consumers, Verizon may decide to replicate the pay-as-you-go options offered for its slower data service.