News Analysis: With AT&T announcing LTE deployment plans, these high-speed networks are growing rapidly across the U.S., bringing a 4G-like experience to millions, especially if they're using Verizon Wireless. With other carriers, the prospects for LTE are not so clear.
The announcement by AT&T
that it would be launching
Long-Term Evolution phones in five markets by sometime this summer
is an indicator
of the current trend toward LTE generally throughout the United States. While
the carriers implementing LTE are calling it 4G technology, it's more of a
be true 4G
, these networks would have to support download speeds of 100M bps.
Right now, the only commercial wireless network that's even approaching 4G
speeds is T-Mobile's 42M bps HSPA+ (Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) network.
T-Mobile announced May 24
that the company was cranking up the speed on its 4G network to the new higher
speed in over 50 markets. In other words, T-Mobile is providing wireless data
services in 10 times as many markets at over twice the speed of AT&T, which
is trying to take it over.
It's worth noting that one
of AT&T's stated goals if it's allowed to consume T-Mobile, is to dismantle
T-Mobile's data network so it can build its own slower LTE network. I'm sure
this makes perfect sense to AT&T, just as it would to any other company to
whom customers are meaningless. (Do you doubt this? Just check AT&T's customer-satisfaction ratings.)
If T-Mobile's high-speed
data network expansion didn't make AT&T's efforts look pathetic in their
own right, consider
, which is expanding to 21 additional markets by mid-June,
giving the company LTE coverage in 76 markets. The company claims that the
Verizon Wireless network will cover every area presently covered by 3G before
the end of 2013. Considering that Verizon Wireless has consistently delivered
on its network promises early, their claim is certainly credible.
With AT&T, these claims
need to be taken with a grain of salt. AT&T says that it will cover 15
markets by the end of the year with LTE. The first five of those markets, three
of which are in Texas, will arrive "this summer," according to a press release
by AT&T CTO John Donovan.
There was no specific
implementation date on the release, which was issued the day after T-Mobile
announced its expansion and two days after Verizon made its announcement. Right
now, AT&T has no LTE devices, which is no surprise since the network isn't
available yet. But it's not even saying what LTE devices it will support,
beyond the claim that there will be 20 of them.
The best bet is that
AT&T will start with an LTE wireless USB air card, just like everyone else.
These devices are already available from Verizon Wireless, and it won't take a
lot of effort by manufacturers to convert existing LTE cards so they work on
AT&T's network. LTE phones are another matter.