Verizon Intros 4G LTE Device Lineup at CES: Pricing Plans Still Unknown

January 7, 2011

LAS VEGAS — The second chapter in the Verizon 4G LTE story was unveiled Thursday at CES, at a Vegas showstopper special of a press conference where Big Red announced a mix of smartphones, tablets and portable-hotspot routers for its new, fast wireless network.

Left untold was the tale of how much consumers would eventually have to pay to use the cool new devices, all of which Verizon said would be available later in the year with some ready as early as March. While the way pricing and plans are offered will be an important conclusion, between now and when such details are revealed interested observers can busy themselves with the specifications of the forthcoming mobile devices, a list that includes four Android-based smartphones, two tablets, two portable hotspots and a couple notebook computers.

In all it is an impressive amount of new access devices for a new network, one which Verizon launched commercially back in December with a couple USB modems as the only way to connect to its Long Term Evolution-based 4G services. Samsung, an early mover in the LTE market, had the biggest offering with a phone, a tablet and a portable hotspot, with Motorola right behind with a phone and a bigger tablet offering. Also offering devices for Verizon’s new network are LG and HTC, and even corporate-world champion Cisco jumped in with a Verizon LTE version of its new tablet computer designed specifically for an enterprise customer.

Lost somewhat in the device blitz were some other important LTE announcements, including Verizon’s plan to add an additional 140 cities to its coverage list during 2011, as well as the signing of several more agreements with rural carriers who will lease spectrum from Verizon to offer their own-branded version of Verizon’s LTE that will offer compatible roaming across a wider geographical region. So while the Big Red LTE juggernaut advances apace, it still remains to be seen how the carrier will grapple with an emerging dilemma — how to sell ultra-fast powerful mobile devices (which can consume gobs of data quickly) at a price plan that is low enough to attract customers but high enough to ensure profits.

While Verizon hinted that its initial pricing forays will likely look like its initial stab at LTE data plans — $50 for 5 GB per month of downloaded data, or $80 for 10 GB — those price points may not be attractive or flexible enough to entice users to add more LTE to their portable device stack.