Carriers can blow smoke over which one has the largest “4G” network since the term “4G” encompasses multiple types of wireless technology. But when it comes to having the largest LTE network — and all tests show that LTE services are faster than HSPA+ and WiMAX — Verizon (VZ) is the undisputed champion. And during the MobileCON wireless trade show on Tuesday, the company announced two major milestones: First, it now covers 400 markets with its LTE services and second, it will have Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services up and running by the end of 2013. As CNET reports, “consumer trials will begin in late 2013” with the goal of rolling out the service by the end of the year or the start of 2014.
VoLTE is a particularly significant technology because it could spell the end of minute-based voice plans since it would render voice just another application that’s sent through a carrier’s data network. While carriers will obviously be reluctant to give up all the extra revenues that come with charging for monthly buckets of minutes, it could only take one enterprising carrier such as Sprint (S) to offer an alternative that would put pressure on its competitors to do the same.