While the FCC deliberates over the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, it seems that AT&T is moving ahead as if it’s a done deal. The company announced two new tethering devices today: the USBConnect Momentum 4G and the Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G. As Ed Oswald at Beta News pointed out, both devices are capable of using T-Mobile’s frequency bands.
Their reasoning for adding the extra frequencies is obvious: should the merger pass, these devices won’t be obsolete. While smartphones are usually upgraded every two years (or less), customers are probably more likely to keep a USB stick or a mobile hotspot for longer than that, so AT&T apparently thought it was essential to future-proof them.
Of course it’s no sure thing that the merger will be approved by the FCC. Those opposed (most prominently, Sprint) claim that it will create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon that won’t benefit customers.
While the merger’s passing would certainly diminish competition, AT&T is arguing that the move is necessary to have the spectrum necessary to cover the entire country (particularly rural areas) with LTE. That argument is an obvious appeal to the current administration’s goal to provide high speed internet access to the 100 million people in America that don’t have it, in addition to the 14 million with no internet access. Will the FCC bite? We won’t likely know until 2012.
These devices also mark the first foray into LTE for AT&T and will be available at the time of the network’s launch. That launch is slated for sometime this summer. Those eager to get their hands on these devices and compare speeds with Verizon’s LTE may not have long to wait.