AT&T Launches 4G LTE In Five Markets

Just a few years ago, as the LTE versus WiMax wars were being waged, there was a time when Sprint and Clearwire had well over a hundred WiMax deployments, which dwarfed its LTE rivals, who had zero.

Within the last year or so, Verizon and MetroPCS have gotten busy on the LTE front. MetroPCS launched the first LTE deployment in Las Vegas back in September 2010 and has been steadily increasing its reach. As of July, the company had about 8.9 million subscribers in markets including the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and West Coast.

After dipping its 4G toes into the waters of Boston and Seattle barely two years ago, Verizon’s 4G LTE coverage has exploded to cover 117 cities around the country. The company claims that it now offers 4G LTE coverage to over half of the U.S. population.

Now, AT&T has announced an initial 4G LTE roll out to five metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The company has plans for up to 15 deployments by the end of the year, which should cover around 70 million people. Perhaps, then, maybe a few more AT&T customers outside of the state of Texas will soon get the chance to enjoy the new 4G speeds, too.

AT&T is playing catchup with its LTE competitors, and it doesn’t sound like it will see anything resembling Verizon’s coverage any time soon; according to the charming video in its press release, AT&T won’t be offering widespread LTE coverage for several years.

However, AT&T is taking a page out of the T-Mobile playbook and touting its large HSPA+ coverage area as a benefit to its customers as it transitions fully to 4G. HSPA+ provides a sort of bridge between 3G and 4G performance and has often been deemed “3.5G”. The company purportedly provides HSPA+ coverage to about 80% of the U.S.

Even with HSPA+ making up some of the speed disparity between 3G and true 4G, AT&T’s customers aren’t going to wait around forever for the orange and blue to catch up with Verizon. Customer service hasn’t exactly been a strong suit of AT&T’s, and the company no longer has that lucrative iPhone exclusivity as leverage to keep disgruntled (or even ambivalent) customers renewing their service contracts.

It will be interesting to see if AT&T customers get the same kind of performance on its first five 4G LTE deployments that Verizon’s customers get on that company’s network.
Tags:  ATT, HSPA, 4G LTE