Watertown area now hub for 4G mobile devices from Verizon, AT&T


Geese fly south as workers with HPC Wireless Service, Marcy, upgrade the AT&T antennas and system attached to the Sackets Harbor water tower for 4G network capability. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have completed 4G upgrades in the region. Norm Johnston/ Watertown Daily Times

Owners of smartphones and tablets in the greater Watertown area are now savoring faster wireless Internet speeds, thanks to upgraded 4G LTE networks launched by Verizon and AT&T.

Last week, Verizon completed its 4G network in the Watertown area by upgrading 10 cell sites downtown that previously offered 3G service. Verizon will continue making upgrades across the north country over the next several months, installing 4G technology at about 40 remaining cell sites.

The news means that all 4G mobile devices compatible with Verizon and AT&T have access to the 4G LTE networks in the Watertown area. AT&T completed its 4G LTE network here in late March, about six months earlier than Verizon; its network in the region now encompasses Watertown, Evans Mills, Fort Drum, Black River, Calcium, Philadelphia, Gouverneur, Potsdam, Massena and Lisbon.

The north country is the last region in the state to receive access to 4G wireless technology from Verizon, spokesman John F. O’Malley said. The technology giant started upgrading its network in the Syracuse area last year, gradually moving north to upgrade its network in Jefferson County. The latest generation of technology eventually made its way to New York state after Verizon unveiled it in 2010 with networks at metropolitan areas.

Verizon has been upgrading cell sites throughout Jefferson County since May, Mr. O’Malley said. The majority of the county now has 4G coverage, he said, and the network has been partially upgraded in St. Lawrence County and the Adirondacks region.

“Work continued throughout the summer, but we had a few key sites that we wanted to get online to consider the Watertown market launched,” Mr. O’Malley said. “That’s what we accomplished last week by upgrading sites in downtown Watertown.”

Those who use 4G technology for the first time will notice an improvement immediately, Mr. O’Malley said. Surfing the Web on mobile devices is similar to using a desktop computer on the network.

Downloads are up to 10 times faster than on the 3G network, and large documents can be emailed without long waits.

“If you’re downloading a video in a 3G area, you might see some buffering as it loads,” he said. “But if you’re in a 4G area, you’ll see a much faster download with no buffering — just like watching a video on your TV and computer. If you have a broadband connection on your computer at home, it’s like you’re taking that experience mobilely on your smartphone or tablet.”

Historically, AT&T has been a step ahead of Verizon rolling out new wireless technology in the north country. Before upgrading its wireless network to 4G LTE, it previously installed a 4G HSPA+ network in early 2012 that offers only slightly slower speeds, spokeswoman Ellen Webner said. That network is about three times faster than Verizon’s 3G service.

“We built up our higher speed 4G network before Verizon,” Ms. Webner said. “We already have our 4G network in a greater area, and we are now integrating the 4G LTE technology throughout the north country as quickly as possible.”

T-Mobile and Sprint do not offer 4G LTE network service in upstate New York.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times