4G LTE is at the heart of the operator's planned wireless broadband build and spend. AT&T has now installed the faster mobile data download technology in 147 towns and cities. The operator last week launched 4G services in five new markets; Salinas-Seaside-Monterey, Calif.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Lawrence, Kan.; Lincoln, Nebr.; and Lubbock, Texas. Two more markets -- Juneau, Alaska and Monroe, La. -- went live this Monday morning.
The greater availability of LTE will affect AT&T's smartphone offerings this year. "Starting in 2013, all of our post-paid smartphone portfolio will be LTE-enabled," Jeff Bradley, senior VP for Devices at AT&T, told Light Reading Mobile during the show.
See the full interview with Bradley below:
Small cells -- the tiny base stations that can boost coverage and data speeds in buildings and public areas -- are also going to be a crucial part of AT&T's mobile broadband strategy.
The operator's senior VP of small cells, Gordon Mansfield, said during the show that AT&T has successfully tested and deployed small cells in a neighborhood-style deployment in the St. Louis metro area, in an enterprise setting in the Milwaukee metro area, and in a high-rise business setting in New York City.
The deployments have helped AT&T provide nearly 100 percent usable coverage to customers who previously had network connectivity issues, the operator says. AT&T is planning to deploy more than 40,000 small cells across its network by 2015. The operator has already deployed thousands of 3G femtocells to boost coverage in subscribers' homes.
The third element in AT&T's 4G plans revolves around the applications and service capabilities that can utilize the upgraded networks. These will include AT&T's home automation and "Digital Life" security services and many more offerings for the consumer and machine-to-machine (M2M) markets.
It's difficult to predict exactly how service and application offerings will change as networks become more context-aware, though it's certain that the greater availability of precise user location information (for example, what floor you're on, rather than just what building you're in or near) will be a catalyst for service evolution.
I got a glimpse of what will be possible while talking to Chris Hill, the senior VP of AT&T's business solutions unit. He told me that Ma Bell is working with "a major credit card company" on new location-based fraud prevention measures for credit cards.
The system will allow the unnamed credit card company to almost instantly check the location of a user's device on the network if they suspect fraud and determine whether the device is with the user at the purchase location or not.
Hill says that AT&T will use location data derived from its network for the check, rather than triangulate a user's location via satellites. "GPS is too slow for this," Hill explained.
The development of smarter services for increasingly demanding customers in a timely fashion will, I believe, be the major challenge for all the major mobile operators during the next few years, a challenge made all the more difficult by the ongoing need to add coverage and density to their 4G networks .
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A Sync Standards Rumble at the Edge? Everyone agrees that standards are good to stitch together networks made of 4G, small cells and even Wi-Fi, but there's much less accord over which standards to use to actually to get it done