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AT&T names first five LTE markets for summer launch

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) will launch LTE service in its first five markets--Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio--as the summer gets under way, a senior AT&T executive said. 

John Stankey, the president of AT&T's business solutions unit, did not disclose how much AT&T will charge for LTE or what devices will be available at launch. Speaking at the Barclays Capital Global Communications, Media and Technology Conference, Stankey said AT&T will deploy LTE across 70 million POPs and 15 additional markets by year-end. He said the company has been working diligently with its handset and chipset vendors to provide LTE devices that will deliver a "seamless" experience with AT&T's HSPA+ network. The company has said it will launch 20 HSPA+ and LTE devices this year, with more LTE devices, including USB modems and smartphones, geared toward the second half of the year. AT&T has said it will complete its LTE deployment by 2013.

Stankey also said field trials of AT&T's LTE network on its 700 MHz spectrum show that it is delivering real-world speeds "consistent with those that have been given by the top competitors." Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has said its LTE network delivers real-world downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps.  

AT&T's LTE deployment is not nearly as aggressive as Verizon's; Verizon launched LTE in 38 markets and at more than 60 airports in December. Verizon currently offers LTE service in 55 metropolitan areas covering more than 100 million POPs, and the carrier plans to add more LTE smartphones and other devices to its lineup this year en route to reaching 175 markets by year-end. Flat-rate carrier MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) currently offers LTE service in its 14 core markets and sells two LTE handsets, including an Android smartphone from Samsung. 

On AT&T's HSPA+ network, Stankey said the carrier remains committed to deploying enhanced Ethernet backhaul to two-thirds of its cell sites by year-end, and will exit the second quarter with roughly half of those sites having enhanced backhaul.

The AT&T exec also discussed the company's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, and provided more details about how AT&T expects to integrate the two networks if the deal is approved. Stankey said AT&T will focus on consolidating the companies' 2G networks and aggressively migrating 2G customers to more advanced devices. AT&T also will deliberately free up T-Mobile's 1700 MHz AWS spectrum for LTE, and migrate T-Mobile customers to AT&T's 1900 MHz spectrum. Stankey said that in some markets where AT&T has a great deal of 1900 MHz spectrum, the transition could take around a year; in other markets it might take up to two years.

Finally, Stankey elaborated on comments regarding the wholesale wireless market he made earlier this month, when he essentially argued that the wholesale market was not big enough for two wholesale providers--Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and LightSquared. At the Barclay event, Stankey said the wholesale market will allow for new dynamics where assets such as spectrum and towers can be combined and shared among retail and other wholesale players--and that AT&T sees that as beneficial for the market. 

For more:
- see this link to the webcast

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