AT&T accelerating LTE rollout, targeting 11 new cities

After launching LTE in a bevy of major cities in early January, AT&T’s expansion took a bit of a breather, with Ma Bell turning up the 4G service in only a handful of markets in the ensuing months. But starting in April it’s accelerating its rollout once again, announcing on Monday 11 new markets scheduled for the LTE upgrade, including major cities like New Orleans, St. Louis and Cleveland, Ohio. AT&T(s T) is also beginning to fill in some of the bigger coverage gaps it left in cities it’s already launched in.

Those cities include: Naples, Fla.; Bloomington, Lafayette and Muncie, Ind.; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La.; St. Louis, Mo.; Akron and Canton, Ohio; and Bryan-College Station, Texas. In addition, AT&T is adding LTE coverage to New York City’s Staten Island, in a sign that it’s filling out its current footprint in major markets. AT&T said it would stagger the new launches throughout April, May and early summer.

In January, AT&T revealed that it had 74 million pops covered, but since then it’s turned on a few new markets — including Anaheim, Calif., the Tampa Bay and Sarasota areas in Florida and Durham, N.C. – adding to its total. There’s no word yet on where AT&T’s total coverage will sit after it completes this next phase, but it will have to be getting close to the 100 million pops mark.

Arch-competitor Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) is still well ahead in its own rollout. At last count, Verizon had 200 million people covered with networks in 190 cities. With the new launches, AT&T will have 39 markets live. Verizon is well past covering all of the major metro areas and is moving into mid-sized and even small cities, so it can no longer get a huge coverage bang by turning on a single large market. AT&T still has plenty of room to grow big quickly, though. Key cities such as Seattle, Denver and Philadelphia are still waiting for the LTE upgrade.