AT&T may soon be joining rival Verizon Wireless in offering a 4G LTE network. The carrier had announced at CES that it would initially rely on HSPA+, the same technology used by T-Mobile USA and is an evolution of UMTS and HSPA for its current 3G network, as a 4G standard for the first half of 2011 before transitioning to LTE as its 4G protocol for the second half of the year. It seems that the carrier is ready to make good on its promise of rolling out 4G LTE as AT&T is set to launch its LTE network at the end of June in New York City and by July 24th in Los Angeles, California.
According to a tipster to IntoMobile, the July 24th date is when the network will go live, but it’s unclear if the carrier will launch any consumer devices when the network goes live. Rival Verizon Wireless launched its 4G LTE network late last year, but it only launched the network with two USB modems. Only after CES did the carrier bring mobile hotspot routers and the Thunderbolt to its network; more phones are coming, though the carrier has yet to give a firm release date.
Given AT&T’s debacle with 4G marketing with its HSPA+ network, I am reluctant to give the service a try personally. With HSPA+, the carrier had promised theoretical download speeds of 14.4 Mbps on devices like the Atrix 4G and the HTC Inspire 4G, and 21 Mbps on the Samsung Infuse 4G. In real life usage, I had experienced speeds on the Motorola Atrix 4G much slower than on the 3G-only iPhone 4 on both the upload and download side. Additionally, while the Infuse 4G is yet to be released–it is coming this Sunday–download speeds were similarly as bad as those on the Atrix 4G in the suburban area south of San Francisco, California. On the other hand, when Verizon launched its network, it had under-promised its speeds and over-delivered–I routinely get over 15 Mbps on the download side and upwards of 5 Mbps on the upload stream.
Another reason why it’s tough to even consider AT&T is that the carrier currently only offers metered mobile broadband pricing. With faster Internet speeds, I find that I am more apt to do more with my phone–to quote Verizon, as “Droid does,” I find myself surfing the web more, browsing through more YouTube video, performing more online searches, and taxing my phone’s memory by running multiple web-connected widgets. This is a lot more data usage than on 3G on the iPhone, and I don’t think I can afford to stay with a 2 GB or 4 GB Data Pro plan on AT&T, especially when 4G is unlimited on Verizon and Sprint, at least where smartphones are considered.
Hopefully, with AT&T’s transition to 4G LTE, it will be able to not only deliver on consumer expectations by utilizing the LTE protocol, but also help to rectify the situation experienced on HSPA+ in terms of speeds.