AT&T has hit a significant milestone in its 4G rollout. The carrier said Thursday that its LTE network now arches over 300 million people in the U.S. or roughly 95 percent of the population.
Ma Bell didn’t give any indication that it was stopping its rollout, but reaching 300 million brings its 4G coverage just beyond Verizon’s when it closed out its initial LTE rollout with 298 million Americans covered. There are still roughly 17 million Americans who can’t get an AT&T LTE signal, but traditionally the big carriers never reach 100 percent network penetration. Instead they leave the most rural areas of the country to the regional carriers with whom they strike roaming deals.
Verizon and Sprint have already started creating those roaming partnerships through two programs that let smaller carriers use their spectrum for LTE rollouts. AT&T and T-Mobile seem content for now to make their LTE networks exclusive. That could change for AT&T, however, as more 4G devices become interoperable on its networks and the networks smaller carriers are building.
AT&T may have effectively completed LTE network No. 1, but it’s been hard at work building its second and even third LTE networks in different frequency bands for awhile. Verizon has been doing the same since last fall, using airwaves it recently acquired from the cable operators to build its XLTE network.