Verizon's network to get a lot faster

Verizon Wireless said it has essentially finished upgrading its network, as the race to provide speedy wireless service heats up.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, said it now provides so-called long-term evolution wireless service to more than 99 percent of its network footprint, covering 298 million people in 500 markets.

The swift finish to Verizon’s fourth-generation expansion turns up the pressure on its U.S. rivals, who are playing catch up to the nation’s largest wireless operator as consumers’ appetite for wireless data soars. Verizon said that its 4G network is now carrying 57 percent of all the company’s wireless data traffic.

AT&T’s 4G network is in striking distance of Verizon’s, but Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile are far behind. BMO Capital Markets analyst Kevin Manning last month estimated Sprint reached 75 million people with its LTE coverage, while T-Mobile’s newest service touched 15 million people.

Verizon’s announcement came days after Sprint Nextel shareholders approved the company’s takeover by SoftBank, which is poised to funnel billions of dollars of capital to the number three U.S. wireless carrier to help accelerate the build-out of its network, and the network of its wireless affiliate, Clearwire.

Read more about Verizon's new network at The Wall Street Journal.