AT&T’s data network has been a punchline over the last few years because it has been unable to keep up with the demand of iPhone users. As Sprint and Verizon march along with 4G networks, why is AT&T seemingly failing to keep pace?
In a well-conducted interview with GigaOm, AT&T’s CEO of Operations, John Stankey, lays out the company’s mobile data strategy for the next few years. The second-largest U.S. carrier is still deploying HSPA 7.2 and it plans to use HSPA+ as sort of a bridge before it begins deployment of Long-Term Evolution networks in 2011.
It’s a simple decision really, as the company will be able to bring nearly 7 Mbps real-world download speeds to more than 250 million people by the end of the year for less than $10 million. This is possible because it will leverage the existing infrastructure, whereas Sprint and Verizon’s 4G deployments have to build out new infrastructure, which costs billions of dollars. If it can legitimately pull this off, it won’t seem that behind – WiMax and LTE are expected to deliver about 10 Mbps in real-world speed, which should be all that really matters.
It’s somewhat of a similar approach to what T-Mobile is doing with its 3G network but there are a few key differences. The magenta carrier has only been offering real 3G services for a few years so it makes a ton of sense for it to try and make the most out of it. It’s smart for AT&T to have this bridge for LTE but I think it needs to start deploying 4G quickly or it may get left behind.