AT&T playing catch-up in 4G arms race

With its major competitors talking the talk and walking the walk on 4G, AT&T gave the first signs today that it's feeling pressure to get its own 4G network started and completed in a hurry. Until now, AT&T has talked mainly about continuing on with its HSPA+ network and moving only gradually toward 4G LTE.

Speaking at a developers summit here at CES today, AT&T execs said they have moved their target completion date for the 4G network up to the end of 2013. AT&T tested 4G LTE technology in 2010, and plans to begin lighting up the new network by the middle of this year.

AT&T is also moving quickly on 4G devices. The carrier says it will launch two 4G smartphones-the Motorola Atrix 4G and the HTC Inspire 4G -- in the first quarter of this year. Another phone, the Samsung Infuse 4G, will arrive later.

This is interesting because AT&T will have no 4G network by that time, so the carrier is obviously doing the T-Mobile trick of calling its HSPA+ network a "4G" network.

From the AT&T FAQ page: "4G speeds require a 4G device and are delivered when HSPA+ technology is combined with enhanced backhaul." So the three new "4G" phones will run on the HSPA+ network, and not on the AT&T LTE network-not yet.

AT&T’s CEO of Mobility Ralph De La Vega rolled out AT&T’s 4G development plans at CES in Las Vegas today. Image: AT&T AT&T’s CEO of Mobility Ralph De La Vega rolled out AT&T’s 4G development plans at CES in Las Vegas today. Image: AT&T T-Mobile and AT&T are claiming that because HSPA+ service can generate speeds proximate with those of real 4G networks (WiMAX and LTE), they might as well be called 4G. The IEEE standards body may disagree with that definition, but do US consumers know the difference? Probably not.

AT&T says it expects to add between five and seven "4G" devices to its device stable by the first half of this year. That estimate includes the two 4G-enabled laptop cards it announced last year. The carrier says it expects to be selling more than 20 4G devices by the end of 2011.

It appears that AT&T has been feeling the pressure from its competitors, which have all been trumpeting their 4G capabilities.

Verizon launched its new 4G LTE network in 39 cities on December 5 of last year. Verizon is selling two 4G USB cards, but has announced no 4G phones yet (that may change very soon).

Sprint, with its WiMAX partner Clearwire, has already launched three 4G phones (with its new EVO Shift), and numerous other 4G-capable devices. The Sprint/Clearwire 4G WiMAX network is now available in 69 US cities.

T-Mobile has been advertising heavily around its growing stable of "4G" phones.

Even though AT&T's existing HSPA+ network (which the company says is now 100 percent deployed) delivers speeds equal to those of 4G networks in many markets, the company needs to assure its customers and investors that it's moving quickly toward this 4G thing everybody's talking about.

There's a 4G arms race going on, and it has caused AT&T to finally deliver the real 4G LTE roadmap many of us have been waiting to hear.

Check out our complete coverage of CES 2011.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags smartphonestelecommunicationPhones3gconsumer electronicsat&tCES

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Sullivan

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?