Verizon Wireless claims the launch of LTE networks in 21 new markets on 18 October will put its rollout of the technology two months ahead of schedule.

The new markets means LTE mobile broadband service will be available in 417 markets, surpassing the previously stated goal of 400 markets by the end of 2012. The US market leader will also expand coverage in 37 existing markets on the same day.

More than 245 million people in the US, or around 80 percent of the population, will have potential access to the network once the new markets go live.

By the middle of 2012, 11 million customers were using the Verizon Wireless LTE service, while 35 percent of the operator’s total data traffic was being carried on the network at the end of September. The network was launched 22 months ago with 37 LTE-enabled devices now being offered by the operator.

“With 4G LTE technology so widespread and still growing, our customers can travel throughout the United States with a consistently outstanding 4G LTE experience enhanced by a growing number of LTE-enabled products and services,” said Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer at MobileCON 2012 in San Diego.

In real-world conditions users of the LTE network should benefit from downlink speeds of 5Mb/s to 12Mb/s and uplink speeds of 2Mb/s to 5Mb/s. Once outside LTE coverage areas, customers will automatically connect to Verizon’s 3G network.