AT&T (NYSE: T) has been the least vocal of the largest U.S. carriers on its upgrade plans in the future, but today it confirmed that it will conduct two field trials of high-speed LTE technology this year, and will begin commercial deployments in 2011. Release.
Verizon Wireless has been much more aggressive about its 4G plans. Already, it has two trials up and running and anticipates having up to 30 markets this year, covering roughly 100 people. In addition, Sprint (NYSE: S), through its majority ownership of Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR), is investing in WiMax with already dozens of cities covered in the U.S. AT&T has picked both Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) as equipment suppliers for the deployment of LTE.
AT&T is consistently defending its time schedule for its roll-outs, saying that its aligned “with industry expectations for development of LTE technology and widespread availability of equipment and compatible LTE mobile devices.” Sprint currently does not offer mobile phones running on 4G, but some could come as early as the second-half of this year. It’s expected that phones using LTE will take even longer.
In the meantime, AT&T has other upgrades to its network to make, which are designed simplify the upgrade to LTE:
– Deploying HSPA 7.2 software and additional bandwidth for backhaul (HSPA 7.2 will potentially double peak speeds, and the backhaul will support the LTE network).
– Currently, AT&T is offering 10 HSPA 7.2-compatible devices. The upcoming Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad will be compatible.