AT&T to Unload LTE Advanced on the U.S. Masses in 2013
November 9, 2011 10:46 AM
Ma Bell is speeding up the 4G train
AT&T, Inc. (
) has long enjoyed the fastest 3G network in most U.S. regions. And early reports indicate that AT&T LTE -- the company's 4G solution -- is the
fastest in the U.S.
in the select regions where it's available.
Looking to build on its strengths, AT&T Labs President and CEO Krish Prabu
plans yesterday to deploy advanced LTE -- a faster 4G implementation -- across the country in 2013. Addressing an audience at the LTE North America Conference in Dallas, Texas, Mr. Prabhu described how LTE Advanced would allow the company to leverage so-called "advanced network topologies". For the consumer, he says the end result of this faster, better-connected network will be improved capacity and coverage.
Thus far, Sprint Nextel Corp. (
) has been the only other major player to
announce plans for LTE Advanced.
Sprint, which currently uses WiMAX 4G, said in an October presentation that it plans to use its 800 MHz spectrum block to install LTE Advanced by H1 2013.
It is unclear if Sprint will build this network itself or leverage its partnership with Clearwire Corp. (
), a wireless infrastructure firm that counts Sprint as its biggest investor. Separately Clearwire had promised that it could upgrade to LTE Advanced by deploying Time-Division Duplex (TDD) LTE atop of its existing WiMAX network. It says it needs $600M USD in additional investment, though, to complete the upgrade.
Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (
) and Vodafone Group Plc. (
), has not yet announced plans for LTE Advanced. And thus far
possible AT&T acquisition
T-Mobile USA -- a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (
) -- remains without any first generation LTE solution,
still relying on HSPA+
as its pseudo-4G offering.
For AT&T the company's biggest strength has long been data speeds in areas where coverage is good. The biggest weakness, though, is that AT&T's coverage
is much patchier that Verizon's
. AT&T's 4G network already badly lags behind Verizon's in coverage, despite its industry-leading speeds. AT&T's LTE network by the end of the year will cover approximately 70 million Americans, while Verizon's LTE will cover over twice that number -- 160 million Americans.
LTE antenna (green circle) equipped Verizon towers are becoming a common site -- AT&T LTE towers aren't quite so common. [Source: HotHardware Forums]
With AT&T joining Sprint in the race to LTE Advanced (likely TDD-LTE), the question becomes whether AT&T is yet again sacrificing coverage upgrades for speed upgrades.
On Sunday AT&T flipped the switch on LTE networks in four new cities -- Athens, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C.
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