AT&T Launches LTE In Five U.S. Markets
AT&T has launched commercial operations of the carrier's 4G LTE networks in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The new high-speed wireless coverage zones promise to deliver mobile broadband speeds up to 10 times faster than AT&T's existing 3G network.
"We continue to see demand for mobile broadband skyrocket, and now our customers in Houston have access to the latest in mobile broadband with 4G LTE," said Christopher Penrose, AT&T's vice president and general manager for south Texas. "Customers can now get everything from e-mail to apps to streaming video even faster."
The wireless carrier intends to launch new networks based on LTE, or long-term evolution, in an additional 15 markets by the end of the year, at which time the new technology is expected to be available to 70 million Americans. However, Verizon Wireless already has a significant lead over AT&T when it comes to LTE network deployments.
AT&T's rival introduced its first LTE network last December and already covers an area encompassing more than 160 million Americans. What's more, Verizon expects to have 185 million Americans within the carrier's LTE coverage zones by the end of this year.
Pre-Launch Speed Report
According to a report from the Signals Research Group sent to various media outlets by AT&T recently, during pre-launch testing the new LTE network in Houston achieved an average downlink data rate of 23.6 megabits per second. Moreover, the average uplink data rate in Houston was 15.2 mbps.
Still, those pre-launch tests tell consumers little if anything about the real-world performance they should expect over time. Data-hungry demands from smartphone users will undoubtedly affect network performance once AT&T begins introducing LTE-compatible models.
Verizon Wireless tells its own 4G LTE customers to expect average data rates of five to 12 mbps on the downlink and two to five mbps on the uplink. AT&T's wireless rival already sells several LTE-compatible smartphones.
Signals Research also measured the performance of AT&T's LTE network in Houston with respect to latency -- the amount of time that it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another. During testing, the average latency on Houston LTE was 49 ms, which was actually higher than on AT&T's existing 3G network in Houston.
Still, the measurements were made before AT&T had completed its network build in Houston. Moreover, the results were well below the cap of 300 ms round trip at which the quality of packet-based services such as VoIP becomes unacceptable, according to industry analysts.
HTC's Tablet Monopoly
AT&T currently offers just four LTE-compatible mobile devices: two laptop dongles called the AT&T USBConnect Momentum 4G and the AT&T USBConnect Adrenaline, as well as the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G and the HTC Jetstream tablet.
Equipped with an 8-megapixel camera, HTC's new Jetstream tablet runs Honeycomb, Google's Android 3.1 operating system expressly designed for tablets.
"This tablet is a beautiful 10.1-inch, LTE powered masterpiece," said AT&T Senior Vice President Jeff Bradley. "When you combine powerful options like HTC Jetstream with our coming LTE technology and nationwide HSPA+ network, it flies."
The good news for HTC is that the Jetstream will not face competition from Apple's iPad 2, which is not LTE-compatible. Still, industry observers view the Jetstream's hefty $700 price tag and requisite two-year service commitment as a constraint on the device maker's ability to benefit from the tablet's early arrival on AT&T's LTE network.