AT&T Buys Spectrum and Plans Leap to LTE

att_header_logoSeems AT&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 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 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.

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