Speaking at a Bank of America conference, AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey revealed that the company plans to launch its first LTE network starting in the summer of 2011. AT&T believes it can cover between 70 and 75 million POPs (points of presence) by the end of 2011. AT&T didn't specify how many markets would be covered, nor how many it was targeting for the launch.
Stankey said that AT&T needs to continue to evolve its UMTS/HSPA network so that LTE-equipped devices can make phone calls. By itself LTE does not support traditional voice calls (though it could support VoIP).
Right now, AT&T is trialing LTE in Baltimore and Dallas. The company didn't confirm of those markets would be the first to get LTE at launch, but it stands to reason that they will.
AT&T will upgrade its HSPA network to HSPA+ later this year, which should push wireless download speeds up to 7.2Mbps.
T-Mobile has already begun upgrading its HSPA network to HSPA+, and recently announced the first HSPA+ device, the HTC G2, which will be available later this fall.
By way of comparison, Verizon Wireless will cover 100 million POPs in the U.S. with LTE by the end of 2010, spanning some 25 to 30 major metropolitan markets.
Sprint's 4G efforts -- which are encompassed by its WiMax roll-out -- have been steadily making progress. It has 54 markets lit up with WiMax, with more to come later this year. Within a year's time, many Americans should have access to two, if not three, 4G networks.
With Sprint and Verizon making so much noise about their 4G networks, AT&T needs to be able to say, "Hey, we're going 4G, too!"
Now that it has shared a few more details about how the launch will proceed, AT&T's 4G strategy looks clearer.
[Via Fierce Wireless]