AT&T will begin deploying its 4G Long-Term Evolution network in the middle of 2011, the company’s operations CEO John Stankey said in an interview.
The nation’s second largest mobile operator wants to cover between 70 to 75 million people by the end of next year with its LTE 4G network. This will be in addition to the AT&T UMTS/HSDPA 3G network, so look for its high-end crop of devices next year to have dual-mode data chips. The company will invest at least $700 million in LTE 4G this year and much more in the years to follow.
Also, don’t look for 4G handsets from AT&T right out of the gates, as these rollout usually take a while to cover enough of the nation where it makes sense to sell a handset. USB mobile data cards and MiFi-like devices should be the first couple of products that we see which can take advantage of the 4G LTE network.
AT&T’s major competitor, Verizon Wireless, will have its LTE 4G network in as many as 35 markets by the end of the year. We’re also hearing that a 4G handset from Verizon will be hitting by March of next year.
Sprint already has its 4G network up and running in multiple markets and it even has two smartphones capable of utilizing this: the HTC EVO 4G and the Samsung Epic 4G. There is much speculation that it will switch from WiMax to LTE over the next few years, as the infrastructure provider, Clearwire, has said a switch is possible with essentially a software upgrade.
T-Mobile plans to max out its 3G network before diving into 4G and the company is now blanketing more than 100 million people with HSPA+ which gives up to 21 Mbps download speeds (theoretical). The company is also about to release the world’s first HSPA+ phone, the T-Mobile G2, and that is expected to create quite a stir.