AT&T's next mobile network evolution is going to explode rapidly. The company says its LTE network, which is just now beginning to get off the ground, will encompass 70 million people by the end of 2011.
Currently, AT&T's '4G' network reaches most of the country, but there has been a lot of criticism about the carrier's use of the term '4G' because it is only a very marginal upgrade over its current 3G network.
There are varying standards for 4G connectivity, but by all accounts, the standard known as LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the fastest and most powerful. It's currently in use by Verizon as well as MetroPCS. Verizon's flagship 4G phone, the Thunderbolt, is acknowledged as the fastest phone in the country.
The slowest is AT&T, but that is driving the carrier to make big changes, and it now is introducing its own LTE network.
"We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end. We also have plans to add 20 4G devices to our robust device portfolio this year, with some of those being LTE capable," said AT&T CTO John Donovan in a message on the company's website.
"We’ve invested $75 billion in our wireless and wired networks over the last four years – more capital invested in the U.S. than any company in any industry. And we plan to invest $19 billion in our wireless and wireline networks and other capital projects this year. The investments we’ve made to evolve our mobile broadband network in recent years, plus what we have planned for the future, put our customers in position to benefit fully from a host of coming mobile broadband innovations," he continued.
Of course, it still has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with Verizon's 4G presence. It is already in more than 38 major metropolitan areas across the country. One of the major marketing points in the AT&T-Verizon competition over the last few years has been that Verizon's 3G network is much more expansive than AT&T's. It looks like it will be able to use the same message in its 4G LTE rollout.
AT&T still has a lot of work to do to replace the hole caused by the loss of its iPhone exclusivity, but perhaps by rolling out LTE (even though it will be behind Verizon, it will still be able to claim superior network quality compared to Sprint and T-Mobile), it'll at least be able to stay relevant.