AT&T follows Sprint to Launch LTE-A in 2013
Yesterday, AT&T, without disclosing any major details, announced at the ‘LTE North America’ conference that they will launch LTE-Advanced network in the US in 2013. Sprint had earlier announced that it will deploy LTE-A on its 800 MHz spectrum by H1-2013 and is expected to launch LTE services by mid-2012 on its 1900 MHz spectrum as a part of its “Network Vision” network upgrade program. Presently, AT&T has launched commercial LTE services in nine U.S. markets and will deploy LTE in at least another six markets by the end of this year. The operator is expected to disclose the remaining six markets fairly soon. The initial coverage from the 15 markets by end of 2011 will be 70 million people. AT&T mentioned to Juniper that under the current plan, they expect to have 80% of the population covered with LTE largely by the end of 2013 not factoring in the T-Mobile merger. If the merger goes through, then AT&T has committed to expand their LTE network to cover more than 97% of the US population. This is in accordance with the US Government and FCC policy of providing broadband coverage to 98% of the US population. AT&T’s LTE network deployment strategies will begin with metro areas first and will be later offered as a rural broadband solution. Regarding backhaul strategies for their LTE network, AT&T would be moving completely to fibre in most places and will be using microwave where it is not feasible. AT&T announced recently that 2/3 of their data traffic now flows via fibre enhanced cell sites. On another note, Verizon have mentioned earlier that LTE-A is already on their road map. We believe that the operator, currently expanding its LTE services, will soon follow suit and announce a launch date for LTE-A. This will then further heat up the LTE competition amongst these operators in the US market and as suggested by our recent study in LTE and mobile network backhaul - pricing, performance and availability of devices will be the deciding factors.