AT&T Expands its 4G LTE Wireless Network

by Jeff Wiener on September 21, 2011

AT&T has announced the launch of its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless network across five markets in the US. The cities to be covered by the service include Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta and Dallas. By the end of 2011, the company aims to expand the service to cover around 70 million people across 15 markets.

A number of operators have started offering high-speed services and the move was necessary to help the company effectively compete with such rivals. With more and more consumers opting for devices like Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iPhones that offer access to online apps and services, there is fierce competition among operators to be the first to provide this high speed network.

4G network can offer access to online services as much as ten times faster than 3G. For users, this means speedy transfer of large files, simultaneous multiple video streams, smooth video conferencing, ability to run multiple applications simultaneously, faster downloads and uploads, increased efficiency and higher productivity. Verizon is currently one of the front runners in the market with its wireless 4G LTE network coving around 50% of the subscribers in the US, or over 160 millions people. The operator plans to make the network available across the country by 2013.

AT&T chief financial officer and senior executive vice president John Stephens recently revealed the company’s plans at the 2011 Media, Communications and Entertainment conference organized by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Currently users can access AT&T’s wireless 4G network through two devices – a USB stick and a mobile WiFi hotspot.

The USBConnect Momentum 4G offers users access to 4G LTE speeds in some markets and in areas where 4G network is unavailable, customers can access AT&T’s HSPA+ nationwide network, which offers speeds comparable to 4G with improved backhaul. With Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G, users in select markets can access 4G LTE speeds on as many as 5 WiFi enabled devices. It allows users to browse, email, download and do more on LTE and the company’s HSPA+ network available nationwide. AT&T plans to expand its portfolio by adding twenty 4G devices including some LTE-compatible ones by the end of the year.

Everything is not smooth sailing as the company tries to catch up with competitors like Verizon. The company’s attempts to take over T-Mobile USA, a rival operator, have met a roadblock as the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is trying to prevent the proposed $39 billion merger with an antitrust lawsuit. According to the DOJ, the merger will reduce competition, ultimately resulting in fewer choices, poorer quality, lesser product innovation and higher prices in the wireless mobile communication services market. Stephens addressed this issue as well at the conference. He stated that the company will try to work with DOJ and seek an expedited hearing, while continuing efforts to further the merger process with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If the merger is a success, it may provide AT&T an edge over the rivals.

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