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AT&T Moves Again in the Summer of LTE

Dan Jones
8/14/2013
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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is once again adding markets to its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network as it rushes to add new 4G towns and cities this summer.

AT&T went live with the faster wireless data network in six new towns and cities on Wednesday. LTE technology uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) as the basis for the wireless speed boost. (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)

Here are the new markets:

  • Rockford, IL
  • Fairmont, MN
  • Owatonna, MN
  • Rochester, MN
  • Williston, ND
  • Youngstown-Warren, OH

Here's how AT&T stands in relation to the other major operators in the US with LTE deployments:

Table 1: 4G LTE Markets in the US

Operator 4G technology Number of markets Average download speeds
AT&T LTE (Also markets HSPA+ as “4G”) 365 Average of 18.6 Mbit/s downloads
Cricket (Leap Wireless) LTE 11 3-to-15 times faster than Leap's 3G
C-Spire LTE 40 markets up; 3 more coming soon Data speeds up to 10 times faster
MetroPCS LTE 30 markets 2 Mbit/s-15 Mbit/s (Depending on market)
Sprint LTE & WiMax 151 LTE; 71 WiMax Average of 10.3 Mbit/s download
T-Mobile LTE (Also markets HSPA+ as “4G”) 116 markets                                           Average of 25 Mbit/s downloads (on unloaded network)
U.S. Cellular LTE 30+ markets Up to 10 times faster than 3G
Verizon Wireless LTE 500 markets 14.3 Mbit/s average download
Sources: Light Reading, RootMetrics, OpenSignal, carrier data

Why this matters
AT&T is racing to catch its rival Verizon Wireless , which has now covered its 3G footprint with its 4G LTE network. As regards Verizon's larger footprint, AT&T cites crowdsourced network performance monitoring from RootMetrics and other reports to claim that its LTE network is the fastest and most reliable. (See AT&T Claims Most Reliable 4G LTE Network.)

For more

  • Lucky 13: AT&T Adds More 4G LTE
  • AT&T's 4G LTE Summer Splurge
  • 4G LTE: AT&T Wins on Speed, Verizon on Size

    — Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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    Infostack
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    Infostack,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/16/2013 | 4:10:30 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    One of the main, if not primary, reasons we didn't have pervasive 3G digital coverage was the flat rate, all-you-can-eat (ayce) plans that developed in the late 1990s and that were extended to data in the 2004-05 timeframe and were in place until 2 years ago.  In the 2000s there was no way to clear or monetize urban/suburban demand as it transited through rural markets.  So anywhere from 50-70% of the traffic couldn't be monetized to justify the expenditure as rural subscribers alone do not (at least for the first few years of any buildout) justify the expense.

    Data caps and usage based pricing will reverse this trend as urban/suburban demand can be monetized in rural markets.  That said, the entire service provider rural business model is woefully inefficient by avoiding of sharing of facilities and sites.  Each carrier (mainly ATT and VZW) feels having a network/facilities advantage gives it a competitive advantage; the customer be damned.  Note, no one is questioning how Sprint or T-Mobile will monetize rural demand with their AYCE plans.  Even if they try to align with smaller 700mhz carriers, their pricing makes urban/suburban users pure "cost" when they roam into rural markets.
    Gabriel Brown
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    Gabriel Brown,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/16/2013 | 7:04:02 AM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    KBode -- sounds similar to the UK. Once you get of London (or any city or town), 3G coverage virtually dissappears.
    Gabriel Brown
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    Gabriel Brown,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/16/2013 | 7:02:43 AM
    Re: LTE future for large venues
    rwilliams27501 -- the operator would deploy a stadium-specific solution.
    Gabriel Brown
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    Gabriel Brown,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/16/2013 | 7:01:37 AM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    Milan03 -- that's good insight into how well it works for customers. Interesting it has happened so soon.

    Now its busy, adding AWS will make it better. That was kind of my point below. Once the network gets busy, the operator deploys more capacity. In general, over time, service gets better and better.
    milan03
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    milan03,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/15/2013 | 6:23:05 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    That's on point. Just look at Verizon's LTE performance in NYC. Up until the iPhone 5 launch their peak and average LTE rates were absolutely stellar, and now in crowded areas of NYC, the LTE layer simply stalls, or times out. I'm noticing RRH added to Verizon's existing macros, indicating final testing stages for their AWS LTE rollout which should add an additional 2x20Mhz physical layer. They're holding 40Mhz of greenfield AWS in NYC, A+B licenses. 

    AT&T's LTE is still not nearly as loaded here, but it's starting to noticeably slow down, and W-CDMA is still suffering from dropped calls syndrome, just to a much lower extent. Unlike Verizon, AT&T has absolutely no available spectrum to deploy once their LTE starts halting, unless they start shutting down their existing HSPA channels in order to refarm CLR and PCS for LTE use, which will open a whole other level of issues.
    Dan@LightReadingMobile
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    Dan@LightReadingMobile,
    User Rank: Blogger
    8/15/2013 | 3:35:05 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    Softbank seems pretty focused on deploying 2.5-2.6GHz, which tends to suggest fatter pipes for city-dwellers not some kind of rural panacea. At least given my experience of how well WiMax performs, maybe LTE TDD ups its game considerably.
    rwilliams27501
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    rwilliams27501,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/15/2013 | 3:05:06 PM
    LTE future for large venues
    so LTE would be an issue in a large venue format, like a stadium, since its likely that all 60,000 fans would have to share the capacity. right now, only LTE phones, but eventually, will it be enough?
    KBode
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    KBode,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/15/2013 | 1:42:28 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    Even AT&T and Verizon, by far the coverage leaders, continue to have serious issues in urban areas. You can easily head just 30 minutes north of New York City and find countless examples of large coverage gaps right on major highways where you're either getting 1x -- or absolutely nothing. Recently switched from AT&T to Verizon thinking things on that front would be better, and have found that Verizon's coverage is actually a little worse in many of these areas.

    I tether for writing constantly, spent more than a month traveling in eight states last summer (including a long stint in Navajo territory), and coverage was unsurprisingly even worse.

    It's slowly getting better, but with the industry leaders still having these kinds of problems, I can't imagine what the real world coverage experience on both Sprint and T-Mobile is when traveling. 

    Very curious to see what added wrinkles SoftBank adds to the Sprint mix.
    Dan@LightReadingMobile
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    Dan@LightReadingMobile,
    User Rank: Blogger
    8/15/2013 | 1:21:28 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    Average speeds keep getting faster. That's no good to you if you're stuck on a congested city cell.
    Gabriel Brown
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    Gabriel Brown,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/15/2013 | 1:07:19 PM
    Re: AT&T's clearly turning a corner
    Just build more network, no?

    The idea that as more people use the network, the slower it will get, is well entrenched. But actually, observably, end-user speeds keep on climbing.

    You get the odd blip (like the iPhone arriving) but that stimulates network investment.
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