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MWC 2009: AT&T Plots LTE in 2011

BARCELONA -- GSMA Mobile World Congress -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) appears to be moving faster with plans to deploy next-generation mobile broadband technology Long-Term Evolution (LTE) earlier than it had previously revealed, saying that it now wants to have commercial services ready in the middle of 2011.

AT&T's senior vice president of architecture and planning, Kris Rinne, gave a brief update on AT&T's plans at the show here on Monday afternoon. The No. 1 U.S. operator had previously said that it wanted to squeeze more out of its 3G HSPA networks before migrating to LTE in 2012.

The operator still plans to use the additional headroom it claims to have in HSPA 3G to its advantage with faster services but has accelerated its LTE timeline, too. The 2011 deployment date brings AT&T more in line with its key rival, Verizon Wireless , which has ambitious plans to deploy LTE in 2010. (See 4G Backhaul: A Problem for All?, AT&T & Verizon to Use 700 MHz for 4G , and Verizon to Name LTE Vendors at MWC.)

AT&T's Rinne says the operator is currently in a request for proposal (RFP) process to select vendors for LTE, with trials planned for 2010 and commercial services targeted for mid-year 2011.

"We've got considerable runway in our HSPA technologies, so we're not in the position to have to move to LTE as quickly as some of our competitors," she said. "We're on a more realistic path in terms of LTE timelines when you'll have the full ecosystem developed."

Rinne confirmed what Unstrung had heard from Nortel Networks Ltd. 's president of carrier networks, Richard Lowe: Nortel is responding to an LTE RFP at AT&T. (See Nortel Keeps LTE Dream Alive and AT&T, Verizon Plot Faster Futures.)

But before moving to LTE, Rinne said, AT&T has started an HSPA trial in Chicago at 7.2 Mbit/s and plans to implement 21 Mbit/s HSPA later this year.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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