AT&T's Rinne details LTE plans: VoLTE in 2013

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CHICAGO--At the 4G World trade show here, AT&T's (NYSE:T) Senior Vice President, Architecture and Planning, Kris Rinne offered a range of new details about the carrier's planned LTE rollout. She said AT&T will require LTE device makers to support both 700 MHz and AWS spectrum bands, and that AT&T hopes to introduce Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology by 2013. Rinne also said AT&T will spend $700 million this year in preparation for its LTE deployment next year.

Click here for Kris Rinne’s slide presentation.The news is notable as AT&T has offered few details of its planned LTE rollout. The carrier announced earlier this year that it will launch LTE sometime next year, and hopes to cover 70-75 million POPs by the end of 2011. In the interim, the carrier is upgrading its 3G network to HSPA+ technology, which Rinne said will "provide our customers that fastest overall experience across the data networks." One of Rinne's presentation slides noted AT&T's HSPA+ network will be two to three times faster than an EVDO network; AT&T rival and CDMA carrier Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is set to rollout LTE to 110 million POPs by year-end.

On the voice side of things, Rinne said AT&T's initial LTE phones--set to roll out in the second half of 2011--initially will offer voice calling via Circuit Switched Fall Back technology to the carrier's 3G network.

"We are already beginning our integration into our IMS architecture so that we can prepare for Voice over LTE, but that will be targeted for the 2013 timeframe when we've got more ubiquitous coverage on our LTE radio access network," she said.

Verizon too has said it will support VoLTE technology in the future, but initially it will run voice calls over its CDMA 1X network and reserve LTE only for data.

Rinne also said AT&T has "already done the work to modify our SIM cards, our UICC, so we have the incremental files required to support the LTE interfaces." She said the carrier is making 25-27 BSS and OSS changes to support the new infrastructure and capabilities that it's putting in place for LTE.

Interestingly, Rinne said AT&T will require its device suppliers to support a range of spectrum bands. She said the carrier's EDGE devices will have to run over 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz; that its 3G devices will have to support 850, 1900 and 2100 MHz; and that its LTE devices will have to support both its AWS and 700 MHz bands.

While Rinne did offer a range of insights into AT&T's LTE plans, she declined to provide the carrier's expected real-world LTE download speeds.

"I think we'll be very competitive with what you've seen from our competitors, but we haven't disclosed what the speeds will be," she said.

Verizon has said its LTE network will support download speeds of 5-12 Mbps.

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