AT&T is planning to deploy long-term evolution 4G services this summer in five markets and will add another 10 markets in the second half of 2011, bringing the total number of Americans covered to about 70 million by year's end.
In a May 25 blog post, AT&T CTO John Donovan said that this summer, AT&T's LTE services will come to Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio. AT&T also has 20 4G devices planned for release later this year to take advantage of its coming speeds.
"We've invested $75 billion in our wireless and wired networks over the last four years-more capital invested in the U.S. than any company in any industry. And we plan to invest $19 billion in our wireless and wireline networks and other capital projects this year," Donovan wrote. "The investments we've made to evolve our mobile broadband network in recent years, plus what we have planned for the future, put our customers in position to benefit fully from a host of coming mobile broadband innovations."AT&T has arrived late to the 4G party. Sprint, via Clearwire, began offering WiMax-based 4G in 2008, years ahead of its competitors. In November 2010, T-Mobile began calling its HSPA+ network 4G, and a month later, Verizon officially launched its LTE 4G network in 38 markets and 60 airports-a far less modest kickoff than the five cities proposed by its closest rival.Seemingly following T-Mobile's lead, AT&T began a few months ago to refer to its own HSPA+ network as 4G, while continuing to promise an LTE 4G network rollout by mid-summer. (Sprint and Clearwire-which Sprint owns a majority share of-have acknowledged they'll likely also transition to LTE, if not just run it alongside the WiMax network.)With high-data-use tablet and smartphone sales quickly rising, carriers are feeling pressed to speed their rollouts of 4G technologies, which are more efficient on the carrier end and can offer consumers speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G. Pressed for additional spectrum with which to expand, AT&T has made a controversial bid to purchase T-Mobile, the nation's fourth-largest carrier, for $39 billion in cash and stocks.Federal regulators have tasked AT&T and T-Mobile with proving that the deal would benefit Americans before they'll give it their approval. Critics argue that it will create a duopoly that will reduce competition amongst Verizon and AT&T, negatively affecting customers and slowing innovation."Consumers all across the nation will share in [the benefits of mobile broadband] as the transaction will allow the combined company to build out an advanced new 4G LTE network and bring state-of-the-art mobile broadband to over 97 percent of the American population-more than any other provider and far more than AT&T alone was planning before the transaction," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in written testimony submitted to a Senate subcommittee investigating the proposed purchase.The only thing now that can slow AT&T's current cycle of investment, innovation and growth, Stephenson added, is a lack of spectrum-which T-Mobile can provide.AT&T CTO Donovan, in his blog post, said that AT&T has upgraded its mobile broadband speeds five times over the last few years and increased its speeds by 40 percent over just the last two years."We're positioning to deliver a great mobile broadband experience in the near term with HSPA+," he wrote, "and a growing LTE footprint."