updated 02:15 pm EDT, Wed August 10, 2011
ATT to have one LTE 4G phone late this year
AT&T's mobility Senior VP Pete Ritcher in his turn at an Oppenheimer conference Wednesday vowed that there would be at least one LTE-based smartphone from AT&T by the end of the year. The device wouldn't come until late, as AT&T wanted to make sure it had at least 50 million potential customers covered with the more authentic 4G access before stepping up its campaign. About 15 core markets, or 70 million people, should be reachable by the end of the year.
He didn't name the device in question with Fierce in attendance, but it's most likely to be the Motorola MB865. Considered mostly an AT&T adaptation of Verizon's upcoming Droid Bionic, it should share the 4.3-inch, 540x960 screen, dual-core processor, and eight-megapixel camera. The key difference will be the requisite switches to GSM for voice and HSPA+ for 3G.
Despite Apple still being the foundation of AT&T's smartphone business and having a new iPhone in the works for later this year, it isn't expected to have an LTE iPhone until at least 2012. Current chipsets would have forced major sacrifices. It would need a large chip just for the LTE and would likely see the same very short battery life that has prompted mass returns of the HTC Thunderbolt.
Ritcher repeated AT&T's view that the lack of as wide an LTE deployment as Verizon in the near term wouldn't be a problem. Outside of LTE areas, AT&T will still have HSPA+ speeds, which on the right devices will give up to 21Mbps. Moving to LTE would improve the 3G network at the same time as users gradually weaned themselves away from 3G and reduce the congestion.