4 Comments

Summary:

AT&T is getting ready to launch its LTE network, and the first two devices that can use it have been introduced. One is a mobile hotspot, while the other is a USB data stick, but both should handle seamless transitions between 3G and 4G networks.

att-lte-hotspot

AT&T hasn’t yet rolled out LTE service yet, but it’s coming soon. So too are the devices that can use the upgraded network, the first of which AT&T has announced on Tuesday. The Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G is a pocketable hotspot, while the USBConnect Momentum 4G is a USB data stick for laptop computers. Both will fall back on AT&T’s HSPA+ network in the case of inadequate LTE coverage. AT&T expects to bring LTE service to 5 markets this summer and an additional 10 markets by year-end, covering 70 million people with faster data speeds.

Both new devices will be available “this summer” and support Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X computers. The hotspot device, $69 with contract after $50 mail-in rebate, offers a nice-looking 1.77-inch display and can share its mobile broadband connection with up to five devices. The screen shows the battery status, signal strength and data usage. For $20 less (after contract and with mail-in rebate), consumers can opt for the USB stick, which looks noticeably larger than others I’ve seen: AT&T says the dimensions are 2.6″ x 1.02″ x 0.51″. AT&T hasn’t yet announced any details on LTE pricing plans for either device.

While AT&T has taken a slower path to delivering LTE than Verizon Wireless, it is promising to see that devices are ready and waiting for the new network. It’s also good that Mac support is available from day one, something that Verizon took time to add to its first LTE devices. I’m also keenly interested in something that has challenged Verizon: How seamless will the handoffs be between the 3G and 4G network?

My suspicion is that AT&T’s experience will be better for one key reason. Instead of transitioning between completely different types of networks, AT&T is dealing with two GSM-based networks: HSPA+ and LTE. In contrast, Verizon’s LTE device must hand off between EVDO and LTE, which are completely different technologies. Although it will take time for AT&T to catch up to Verizon in terms of LTE coverage, the 3G/4G handoff experience may be a key decision point for consumers.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. The most obvious advantage at&t should have over vz is, imho, that when the handoff from 4G to 3G occurs (seamless or not, as you point out), the drop in speed wouldn’t be so dramatic, considering HSPA+ speeds as opposed to the dismall EVDO.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel R Tuesday, July 12, 2011

      I think that too will depend on coverage as AT&T is still in process of upgrading its network from HSPA to HSPA+. Overall, however, you raise a good point. Thx!

      1. The comment about Verizon’s 3G/4G handoff being worse is not quite true. In fact, the network supports seamless 3G/3G handoffs. See

        http://3g4g.blogspot.com/2008/09/ehrpd-stopgap-between-ev-do-and-lte.html

        for a high level description of how it’s done.

        1. Kevin C. Tofel WEKNS Tuesday, July 12, 2011

          That’s a great description from 2008. I’ve used the LTE network in 2011 and have seen slow handoffs. ;)

Comments have been disabled for this post