News Analysis: AT&T lags behind other carriers as it prepares its high-speed network for eventual launch. But it says it will start rolling out 4G LTE service in mid-2011.
playing catch-up to Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, announced at the Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it will begin rolling out its 4G LTE network
sometime in mid-2011 and in the meantime will continue to finish its existing
3G HSPA+ network.
carrier, still struggling under its iPhone-driven traffic load, has started
referring to its network as the fastest mobile broadband network in the United
States. However, it has not offered any
metrics to back up those claims.
is the only major U.S.
carrier offering 4G LTE service, having finished lighting up 38 major
metropolitan areas and over 100 major airports in December 2010. T-Mobile,
meanwhile, is claiming 4G speeds for its HSPA+ network with speeds of around 20M
bps, depending on location. AT&T's HSPA+ network runs at about one-third
the speed of T-Mobile's.
launching its LTE network in mid-2011, AT&T would lag in 4G deployment by
over a year compared
, and by more than six months compared with T-Mobile (which
started calling its HSPA+ network "4G" in November) and Verizon Wireless,
which built out a substantial national coverage in December. According to
observers at CES, AT&T has started calling its HSPA+ network a "4G"
service on advertising signs in Las Vegas.
late launch puts AT&T substantially behind the other carriers in offering
4G-like services (note that none of these services is actually 4G according to
the International Telecommunication Union). But it may coincide with the launch
of the new iPhone 5, which is expected to appear at an Apple conference during
the summer. Apple has long been rumored to be developing LTE for the iPhone,
although until now that speculation has centered around the version for Verizon
, expected to arrive in less than a month after CES.
advantage for AT&T would be that the new LTE radios for the iPhone would
have gone through at least some debugging at the hands of another carrier, and
perhaps spare AT&T the glitches that plagued the iPhone 4 and its 3G
connectivity. AT&T, meanwhile, is taking no chances. The company has
already announced a new smartphone in conjunction with Motorola. The Attrix 4G
is designed to dock into a laptop and provide faster wireless speeds than the
company has also said that it will start using the "4G" term for its
new high-speed devices this spring, and it announced new smartphones from
Samsung and HTC. AT&T in its CES
announcement said that the company will have about 20 4G devices available by
the end of 2011. While the iPhone wasn't mentioned, it's likely that it will be
one of those devices.