Verizon, others bring 4G to more Illinois areas

By Wailin Wong
Posted March 22 at 1:08 p.m.

A number of metropolitan areas in Illinois are getting wireless speed boosts this year as Verizon Wireless, Clearwire and T-Mobile expand and upgrade their 4G networks.

Verizon announced Tuesday that it is adding 59 markets to its 4G network, launched in December in Chicago and 38 other markets. By the end of the year, Bloomington/Normal, Carbondale, Champaign, Rockford and Springfield will also be on the network.

Verizon unveiled its first 4G handset, the HTC ThunderBolt, last week, and said more 4G-enabled smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices will be coming out this year.

Clearwire, which became the first 4G operator in Chicago when it lit up its network in 2009, said Tuesday that  it has added capacity in the area and expanded its network by 40 percent. The company said its service area covers an additional 1.35 million people in the Chicago area as a result of the expansion.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile said the Chicago area will be one of the first major markets to get an upgraded 4G experience later this year. The carrier, which plans to merge with AT&T in a proposed $39 billion deal,¬† announced this upgrade at the beginning of 2010 but did not disclose the cities that would be first in line for the faster speeds. Las Vegas, New York and Orlando will be upgraded first, “followed closely” by Chicago, T-Mobile said Tuesday.

Verizon uses a technology called Long-Term Evolution, or LTE, for its 4G network, while Clearwire uses a technology called WiMax. T-Mobile’s network runs on a technology called HSPA+. When T-Mobile started marketing its network as “4G” last year, the move prompted grumbling from some of its competitors that the carrier was mislabeling its capabilities. But all of the major operators now tout their networks as “4G.”

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