AT&T's summertime LTE rollout targets 77 new markets

AT&T (NYSE:T), which is expanding its LTE rollout to include less densely populated areas, released a list of 77 new markets where it will make LTE service available by summer's end.

The expansive list includes such far-flung places as Anderson, S.C.; Cape Cod, Mass.; Farmington, N.M.; Laramie, Wyo.; Seneca Falls, N.Y.; Spokane, Wash.; and St. Croix and St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

The operator recently launched LTE in six new markets: Jackson, Tenn.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Napa and Santa Rose-Petaluma, Calif.; Rocky Mount-Wilson, N.C.; and Orangeburg, SC. AT&T said its LTE service is now live in 182 markets. The operator has said it intends to hit at least 250 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2013 and 300 million POPs by year-end 2014.

AT&T has been ramping up efforts to to catch up to Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) expansive LTE footprint, which includes 486 U.S. markets.

In areas where AT&T does not have LTE coverage, its customers fall back onto its HSPA+ network rather than EV-DO.

Verizon launched LTE on Dec. 5, 2010, becoming the world's first Tier 1 wireless carrier to roll out the the technology. The operator's network is still the largest commercial LTE network in the world, covering more than 273 million POPs, or close to 89 percent of the U.S. population. Verizon continues filling in its LTE coverage gaps but has said it expects to finish its initial LTE deployment by mid-year.

AT&T touts the fact that in areas where it does not have LTE coverage, its customers fall back onto its HSPA+ network. In contrast, Verizon's customers throttle back to a much slower CDMA EV-DO network, which is one reason Verizon has been so aggressive in rolling out LTE. Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) LTE and WiMAX customers also fall back to CDMA EV-DO.

However, T-Mobile's LTE customers will also be able fall back to HSPA+. T-Mobile's newly launched LTE network is live in seven markets on its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum. T-Mobile covers 225 million POPs with its HSPA+42 network, and 140 million POPs are now covered by HSPA on the carrier's refarmed 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. The carrier plans to expand HSPA coverage on 1900 MHz to 200 million POPs by the end of the year.

Sprint's LTE network now covers around 100 million POPs, a target T-Mobile expects to hit by mid-year. Both carriers expect to have 200 million POPs covered with LTE by the end of 2013. 

For more:
- see this AT&T release

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