Verizon's Big Red Footprint Gets Bigger

Earlier in the year, wireless carrier Verizon (NYS: VZ) said it was planning on expanding its 4G LTE coverage to span over 400 markets by year's end. That was an aggressive goal considering it started the year with only about 190, meaning it was looking to more than double that figure in just one year.

Turns out that Big Red wasn't just being overly ambitious, and is actually reaching that goal ahead of time. Speaking at MobileCon, a conference all about mobile IT, Verizon CTO Nicola Palmer said the carrier is launching LTE in a handful of markets on Oct. 18, bringing its total tally up to a whopping 417, further extending its LTE lead against rivals AT&T (NYS: T) and Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) .

In comparison, AT&T currently has just 75 LTE markets while Sprint has just 24. That means that within a matter of weeks, Verizon will have over four times the coverage as those two carriers combined. That's despite the fact that Verizon spends less than AT&T in capital expenditures, though both vastly outspend Sprint.

VZ Capital Expenditures Chart
VZ Capital Expenditures Chart

Verizon Capital Expenditures data by YCharts.

Verizon now has 11 million of its post-paid wireless subscribers on its LTE network. That represents over 12% penetration of its 88.8 million total, a good sign for data fees since consumers have a propensity to consume more data when on speedy LTE networks.

Palmer also said Verizon is planning on launching voice over LTE, or VoLTE, by late next year or early 2014. Consumer trials will start in 2013, which is approximately the same time frame that CFO Fran Shammo had previously pegged. That's good news for Acme Packet (NAS: APKT) , as the session border controller specialist has been waiting to bank on the adoption of VoLTE for a long time now, only to see delays in carrier spending wreak havoc on its results.

Eventually, Verizon will wind down its older CDMA-based network, but that's still a long ways away. Until then, Big Red's footprint lead just got a little bigger.

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Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of AT&T and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Acme Packet. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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