AT&T has announced that it is going to start offering LTE service in mid-2011, putting it behind rival Verizon in deploying a fourth-generation cellular-wireless network.
John Stankey, the chief of AT&T Operations, revealed his company’s plans at a conference, He said part of the delay was making sure that its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, which is data only, will work well with this carrier’s voice network.
By the end of next year, AT&T intends to be able to offer 4G service to 70-75 million people.
In the mean time, this carrier is continuing to deploy the 3.5G standard HSPA+, which Stankey says will give its customers real-world download speeds of 7 Mbps. Under ideal conditions, HSPA+ offers downloads at up to 21 Mbps.
LTE will offer 40-50 Mbps for downloads and 20-25 Mbps for uploads under ideal conditions.
Stankey did not say when AT&T intends to launch its first smartphones with 4G access. When introducing high-speed data networks, carriers typically offer wireless access cards for laptops with the new service before phones.
Up Against the Competition
Verizon is much further along in building its LTE network. The carrier plans to offer LTE service in 25 to 30 U.S. markets covering roughly 100 million people by the end of this year.
Sprint could be considered ahead of all its rivals, as it is already offering 4G service using the WiMAX,. On the other hand, in real world performance, Sprint’s WiMAX network runs at 3 to 6 Mbps, slower than T-Mobile USA’s HSPA+ network. Still, Sprint is offering two smartphones with WiMAX, while T-Mobile has yet to offer any with HSPA+.