ATandTs Inaction Opens Opportunities for Verizon, T-Mobile
AT&T. of course, isn't admitting that it's overwhelmed by the popularity of the iPhone and the other 3G devices it's selling. The statements by AT&T executives refer instead to the company's desire to let the market mature before taking the 4G plunge. There's actually something to be said for not being the first to move into a new technology. Sprint was the first into the 4G fray, and it's already finding out that WiMax isn't necessarily the best star to hang its 4G hat on.AT&T, meanwhile, is still building out its 3G network so that it can keep up with demand from all of those iPhone and iPad users. That demand will ease slightly after the beginning of 2011 when Verizon Wireless gets the iPhone, but it certainly won't go away. AT&T still needs to build enough capacity to serve its existing iPhone customers adequately, and simply slowing the rate of growth isn't going to help all that much. AT&T's late LTE blooming leaves room for all sorts of speculation. Perhaps Verizon Wireless will introduce the iPhone with 4G capability, giving it lots of bandwidth and very low latency, which will no doubt delight iPhone users. This could have a lot to do with why Verizon Wireless won't be shipping its iPhone until the beginning of 2011-just after its first 30 LTE cities light up. T-Mobile, which will have finished building out its very high-speed HSPA+ network by the end of the year, is rumored to be introducing the iPhone in November, 2010. Both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, along with Sprint, which already has 4G, have announced versions of Samsung's new Galaxy S Tablet, which will need those fast networks. AT&T is still selling the iPad. None of this means that the iPhone and the iPad killed 4G for AT&T, but it sure helps explain why that company is so late getting a 4G option for its network. As is the case with any infrastructure-heavy company, there's only so much you can do at one time.
T-Mobile, meanwhile, is hedging its bets on 4G by working on an LTE network while also trying to buy into an existing WiMax network. Fortunately, a series of new 4G chips from Beceem and others makes it possible to roam seamlessly between WiMax and LTE, assuming you have device radios that support the required frequencies.