Verizon Wireless announced 26 additional LTE cities and the expansion of its network in San Francisco, Indianapolis and Cleveland/Akron. The company will now offer LTE in a total of 143 markets across the United States.

Starting Thursday, Sept. 15, Verizon Wireless' LTE network will be available in Fort Smith and Jonesboro, Ark.; San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Daytona, Fla.; Bloomington, Champaign/Urbana, Rockford and Springfield, Ill.; the Quad Cities, Ill./Iowa; Iowa City, Iowa; Shreveport, La.; Kalamazoo and Saginaw, Mich.; Reno, Nev.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Fargo, N.D.; Canton, Lima and Mansfield, Ohio; Dyersburg, Tenn.; the Tri-Cities, Tenn./Va.; and Austin, Beaumont/Port Arthur, Wichita Falls and El Paso, Texas.

Verizon says it plans to bring LTE to rural areas through partnerships with communications companies in those areas. The company says 11 rural companies have announced their participation in the LTE in Rural America program and have leased spectrum covering, in total, more than 2.1 million people in rural communities and nearly 62,000 square miles.  These companies include: Bluegrass Cellular, Carolina West/Clear Stream, Cellcom, Chariton Valley, Convergence Technologies, Cross Telephone, Custer Telephone Cooperative, Pioneer Cellular, S&R Communications, Strata Networks and Thumb Cellular.

Verizon says users can expect real-world average data rates on LTE of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink.

Verizon Wireless currently offers 11 4G LTE-enabled devices, including the recently launched Droid Bionic from Motorola, which is the first Verizon Wireless smartphone to combine LTE with a dual-core 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 4.3-inch qHD display.

Verizon Wireless' 3G network covers more than 290 million Americans, and given the additional markets announced today, the company's LTE network will cover more than 160 million Americans and will be available in 143 cities. The company says it will have rolled out LTE to its entire footprint of 290 million subscribers by 2013.