Verizon Wireless unveils high-speed LTE service in L-A, Western Maine
AUBURN, Dec 20, 2012 (Sun Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Lots of wireless gadgets -- smartphones, computer tablets and laptops -- began running faster Thursday.
Verizon Wireless became the first cellular company to offer the latest high-speed data signal, switching on its long-term evolution or 4G LTE service to customers across much of Androscoggin and Franklin counties.
Besides extended service to Lewiston-Auburn, Verizon's expansion includes 28 towns across Western Maine, reaching to Poland, Norway, Bethel, Rumford, Jay, Sabattus and points in between.
Another block of nearly 70 towns in the Bangor area also received the service Thursday.
"It's certainly one of the many technological improvements that we absolutely welcome because it's going to bring faster Internet speeds to more people," Wayne Jortner, senior counsel the state's Office of the Public Advocate, said.
It may also be the only source of high-speed Internet in some rural areas, he said.
The change allows people with the wireless gadgets to communicate with the Internet at speeds that allow for faster Web browsing, more reliable downloading and smoother access to streaming audio and video from such sites as YouTube, Pandora and Netflix.
It's not for everyone, though.
The change only affects people with some of the latest technology, including Apple's iPhone 5, some newer iPads and the Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets.
And it only affects people with Verizon service.
None of the area's other cellular carriers, including Sprint, U.S. Cellular or AT&T, offer the same technology yet in the local area. All are working on their own expansions, though none have released a definite timetable for when they'll reach beyond Portland.
Thomas McGray, the mobile manager at Best Buy in Auburn, has been selling LTE-enabled phones for about a year. For him, the change means he can show people more of what the latest gadgets can do.
"It's always been a challenge to sell the latest and greatest technology in an area where you just couldn't do it," he said.
It's a particular issue for people who are getting ready to sign a new two-year agreement with one of the major carriers, all of which are sold at Best Buy.
"I think people knew it was coming," he said.
Customers want to know if the phone they buy today will still be relevant in a year, McGray said. Now, he can give them a sample of what a streaming movie looks like or how quickly a song might download under the new system.
In 3G, a song might take two minutes to download. With LTE, the speed would increase exponentially.
Currently AT&T offers LTE service in several southern Maine communities, including Portland. AT&T also offers data in speeds that reach federal benchmarks of 4G service but are slower than the newer, LTE technology.
A Sun Journal test on a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5 found that download speeds increased by as much as 10 times.
For people who may use the service as a substitute for cable or phone-based Internet delivery, Jortner suggested care. Wireless companies meter usage and there are overage charges.
"It could be expensive news," he said. He suggested people monitor how much data they use, perhaps through the use of a mobile application.
Verizon Wireless has spent more than $3 billion on its New England network since 2000, a company spokesman said in a prepared statement.
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