A snapshot of Tier 1 U.S. broadband network deployments

The past few months have been a hubbub of activity for network providers and infrastructure vendors as the market gears up for the race to 4G. Driven by smartphone successes and increasing demands for bandwidth, the nation's top-tier carriers are in the midst of defining their stance on the race from 3G to 4G.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel early on staked out their positions on the topic, Verizon with its CDMA course correction to LTE technology and Sprint with its Clearwire-sponsored mobile WiMAX play. And AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA haven't disappointed, with executives from each carrier outlining their network plans for the next few years.

(Now, there's a few caveats that need to be made related to network speeds. These speeds are notoriously difficult to pin down, as they can fluctuate wildly based on the amount of available spectrum, the load on the network, the cell site's backhaul and even the users' distance from the cell tower. Thus, these speeds are in many cases rough estimates based on current usage or, in the case of HSPA+ for example, theoretical peak speeds only possible in a laboratory setting. You've been warned.)

So here's the (sure to change) market landscape:

Network technology

EDGE (75-135 Kbps, according
to AT&T
)

N/A

Available in more than 13,000 cities and towns and in areas along 40,000 miles of highways, according to AT&T

N/A

“The service will address more than 90 percent of the current T-Mobile data traffic representing over 75 percent of T-Mobile’s network footprint,” the carrier said

WCDMA/UMTS/
HSDPA

(200-300 Kbps for WCDMA/UMTS, or around 600 Kbps with a peak of 1 Mbps for HSDPA, according to T-Mobile)

N/A

Available in more than 350 U.S. major metropolitan areas, according to AT&T

N/A

In August, T-Mobile said that about 176 cities and 121 million people are covered by its 3G network. The company has said it expects to cover 200 million pops by year-end, adding an additional 100 cities to its coverage

EVDO (300-700 Kbps in the forward link and 70-90 Kbps in the reverse link, according to the CDMA Development
group
)

287 million people covered

N/A

253 million people covered (and 269 million through data roaming agreements)

N/A

EVDO Rev. A (450-800 Kbps in the forward link and 300-400 Kbps in the reverse link, according to the CDMA Development
Group
)

"Virtually all" of those covered by EVDO are also covered with EVDO Rev. A

N/A

"Vast majority" of those covered by EVDO are also covered with EVDO Rev. A

N/A

HSPA 7.2 (theoretical peak speeds of 7.2 Mbps)

N/A

AT&T’s Kris Rinne said the carrier plans to deploy HSPA 7.2 in six cities by year-end and 25 of the top 30 markets by year-end 2010

N/A

T-Mobile CTO Cole Brodman said that the carrier would begin deploying HSPA 7.2 by the end of this year

HSPA+ (Sometimes referred to HSPA Evolved or I-HSPA, it can provide 42 Mbps by utilizing 64QAM modulation on the downlink and 11.5 Mbps through 16QAM on the uplink, according to the GSM Assocation)

N/A

AT&T will continue to look at HSPA+ but has no plans to deploy it, according to Kris Rinne

N/A

T-Mobile USA's Neville Ray said at the 4G World conference that the company would deploy HSPA+ services nationwide by 2010. Ray added that HSPA+ is now available in sections of the Philadelphia area

Mobile WiMAX (3-6 Mbps and bursts over 10 Mbps, according to Clearwire)

N/A

N/A

Rolled out in Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia, Seattle and elsewhere; with plans to cover 120 million people in 80 markets by the end of 2010

N/A

LTE (7-12 Mbps, according to initial tests by Verizon Wireless)

Verizon said it expects to have 30 commercial LTE markets up and running in 2010, and plans to have a nationwide buildout completed in late 2013 or early 2014

AT&T plans to begin LTE trials in 2010, with deployment beginning in 2011

?

"We will be an LTE house at some point in time, but it depends on how this path develops,” said T-Mobile USA's Neville Ray

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