AT&T plans nationwide LTE network

15 February 2011 |

US carrier AT&T aims to be operating a 4G LTE network across the US by the end of 2013, with its first deployment expected to be completed by mid-2011.

With Verizon, Sprint and MetroPCS already marketing 4G networks based on LTE, AT&T has announced its roll out more quickly than initially expected. Market watchers have said that AT&T’s move will be a crucial turning point in the shift of the US mobile market from 3G to 4G. It has already completed an upgrade of its 3G network to HSPA+.

"People like to throw around the term 4G so much it almost becomes meaningless," said Chuck Kalmanek, VP of network and services research at AT&T. "Some of our competitors have LTE rolled out in five cities and claim it’s a network, but it is not. AT&T will roll out LTE fully by 2013 and it will be complementary to our HSPA+ network, which is the fastest in the world."

AT&T said its initial LTE foray will be available to 75 million potential subscribers by the end of the year. Verizon has claimed that the region its network already covers is home to 110 million Americans. TeleGeography has estimated that there will be almost 20 million actual LTE subscribers in North America by 2013, out of 72 million worldwide.

"LTE take up so far has been hampered by the lack of handsets that can accommodate the network," said Peter Bell, research analyst at TeleGeography. "AT&T will push its HSPA+ network as ‘4G on the iPhone 5’, which will launch in Q3 2011, but it is unlikely there will be an LTE iPhone available until at least 2012."

Verizon has also launched the iPhone, ending AT&T’s exclusivity with Apple.