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AT&T Buys Spectrum and Plans Leap to LTE

att_header_logoSeems AT&T (s t) is learning from its mistakes. The nation’s No. 2 carrier has picked up 24 licenses covering wireless spectrum in parts of Washington and Oregon, including the key markets of Seattle and Portland. The spectrum, which was acquired from Microsoft (s msft) co-founder Paul Allen for an undisclosed sum, will support the rollout of LTE services in the Pacific Northwest. And AT&T’s 4G plans don’t include an upgrade to HSPA+, SVP Kris Rinne said at 4G World in Chicago this week. Instead, the carrier will continue its HSPA upgrades for the next two years and work toward a 2011 launch of its first LTE networks.

The operator’s moves are partially in response to network problems caused by data-hungry iPhone users, of course, but it’s also seen a surge in uptake from mobile broadband users and M2M services, Rinne said. And while M2M still represents a small fraction of overall traffic, it’s a space AT&T plans to strongly pursue, as evidenced by the carrier’s new agreement to provide wireless connectivity to Garmin’s (s grmn) new nuvi 1690.

But AT&T is well aware of the cost benefits of moving forward with LTE, too. Rinne said delivering a megabit per second of capacity over HSPA costs 14 percent of what it would to move that same megabit on an EDGE network. The cost of an LTE delivery, by comparison, is just 3 percent.

6 Responses to “AT&T Buys Spectrum and Plans Leap to LTE”

  1. While LTE will definitely bring improvements to the user experience, experience has shown that new “bandwidth hogs” – devices and applications – will continue to task network operators with the challenge of keeping bandwidth ahead of demand. Some interesting statistics to consider:

    -90% of the users are browsing the web, but that accounts for only 40-50% of the total traffic
    -Streaming video accounts for 30-40%, but that is generated by less than 1% of the users
    -P2P file sharing is also a bandwidth hog, with less than 1/10 of 1% of users accounting for 5-10% of the total traffic

    Intelligent traffic management and the optimization of network bandwidth will play a critical role as wireless networks continue to evolve to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and beyond. By increasing network efficiency and capacity and enforcing fair use policies, operators can manage the effects of continued traffic growth within the footprint of their existing installation and scale their networks ahead of rising data usage trends.

  2. Isn’t this already common knowledge? AT&T for some time hasn’t had any plans for anything higher than 7.2Mbps on HSPA. If this is in reference to them not firing up 7.2Mbps please excuse my ignorance, but if this is regarding 14.4Mbps it’s old news.

    LTE or bust! Maybe my iPhone will work someday…