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Ma Bell is speeding up the 4G train

AT&T, Inc. (T) 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 announced 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. (S) 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. (CLWR), 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. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), has not yet announced plans for LTE Advanced.  And thus far possible AT&T acquisition T-Mobile USA -- a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE) -- 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 Tower
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.

Source: FierceWireless



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RE: Yawn
By peanutgallery on 11/9/2011 10:02:28 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed. I wonder what AT&T's marketing budget is. Because if they spent as much on building a robust network as they do marketing, they probably wouldn't have needed to buy T-Mobile.

I mean, I was watching college football game the other day and on the football coach of Oklahoma State University's radio was an AT&T logo. I guess because the CEO of AT&T went to OSU, he likes to see his logo everywhere.

But it seems that if you flood the market with advertising, tons of billboards, and have inflated prices to cover the ads, I guess you don't have to build a network. All AT&T has to do is sit back, collect checks.

I did the math one night based on SEC filings, and I can't really remember, but it looked like AT&T fudges the numbers. The OpEx numbers were quite complicated, but I think AT&T only spends about $10-$15 in network costs per customer. So when you get that $90-per-month phone bill, it seemed like only 10% went to actual network costs.

Myself, I have Verizon, which works pretty good, but when my contract is up, I'll probably switch to Sprint because they still have unlimited data.

Fast speeds are great, but like a tank of gas, the more you push on the accelerator, the faster you run out of gas... In the wireless situation, it's the faster you get to pay overage charges...


RE: Yawn
By peanutgallery on 11/9/2011 10:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
But do your own research, It's tough to figure out how AT&T calculates its marketing budget and actual amount spent on capital expenditures based on SEC statements. They don't report the actual number in SEC statements; it's based on millions of customers or something. It was difficult to determine.


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