verizon lowell mcadam keynote

It’s hard to imagine that Verizon’s LTE 4G first appeared at CES just two years ago. The carrier’s first LTE network locations lit up in December 2010, but it was at CES the following month that Verizon was able to whip up excitement for the technology.

Today during his CES keynote in Las Vegas, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam offered up some perspective on what’s changed in the wireless industry over the past two years, and gave us a glimpse at how fast wireless could be used for the greater good today, and in the future.

McAdam pointed out that before Verizon’s LTE network went live, the average cellular connection in the U.S. was below 1 megabit per second. With Verizon LTE’s average upload and download speeds around 10 to¬† 15 megabits per second, it was a significant leap ahead of past networks. Now the 4G network covers 273 million households, or almost 89 percent of Americans.

“4G LTE proves the case that innovation in networks is the foundation for innovation across the industry,” McAdam said.

Proving that he’s a firm believer in technology’s ability to do good, he announced the Verizon Powerful Answers Award during the keynote. It will give $10 million to anyone who can use connected networks to provide useful solutions in the fields of healthcare, education, and sustainability. Verizon will open submissions for the contest later this quarter, in collaboration with the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES.

AT&T’s LTE network offers similar speeds, and the same will likely be true of other carriers. But, like an annoying internet commenter, Verizon has the privilege of claiming that it was first.

McAdam said we’re beginning to see how fast wireless networks are solving the world’s biggest challenges. For example, a video during the keynote highlighted how Verizon’s partnership with Charlotte, North Carolina is helping it to become a more sustainable city. Another video references “Golden-I,” a platform used by firefighters to quickly look up building schematics and stream video, which is powered by LTE.

Looking forward, McAdam said that Verizon is working on a method to broadcast live video over LTE without crushing the wireless network. It will rely on an LTE broadcast standard that can stream a single video to all LTE users at the same time.

To show just how useful fast wireless can be for a variety of industries, McAdam invited NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and Ford’s chief technology officer Paul Mascarenas to the stage. Goodell gushed about how fast wireless networks are making it easier to provide NFL content to its fans throughout the year. Mascarenas pointed out that Ford Sync, the company’s smart car platform, has been a big success. In a survey of Ford customers, he said that 70 percent who had smartphones chose their car because of Sync.

McAdam also announced that Verizon has launched a $10 million competition to help address some of the world’s biggest challenges. Called the Powerful Answers Award, it will award innovators who use wireless, wireline or cloud-based technology to address challenges in education, healthcare or sustainability. More details here.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat