updated 08:05 am EST, Wed February 10, 2010
AT&T says 2010 3G can move to LTE quickly
AT&T today shined extra light on its plans to move to 4G. As part of an extended deal with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson to upgrade its network, every 3G cell site upgrade in 2010 will also be upgradable to the much faster Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard for 4G, whether it requires add-on hardware, new software or both. The move will let AT&T switch on 4G in these areas more quickly than it could if it had to completely replace the site.
The carrier also reiterated its network upgrade plans for the next two years, which will involve adding 7.2Mbps HSPA-based 3G through 2011 as well as early rollouts of LTE. AT&T expects to test 4G in two areas this year and to formally launch the service in 2011, though it hasn't said how many cities will have 4G when it goes live.
LTE is expected to be crucial to AT&T as it not only promises nearly 14 times more theoretical speed at 100Mbps but to greatly ease many of the congestion issues on the network. The standard depend on an all-IP networking system that doesn't depend on traditional cellular infrastructure and should provide not just more headroom but an easier time upgrading services in the future.
Verizon is expected to be the first with a fully public LTE network in the US, launching later this year in about 25 regions, but will likely be limited at first to data-only modems instead of full-fledged smartphones.