AT&T more than halfway to enabling LAA in 24 markets this year

Houston is among the eight new markets where AT&T just launched LTE-LAA. (Pixabay)

With AT&T’s launch of LTE-LAA in eight new markets, it’s more than halfway to its goal of enabling LTE-LAA in at least 24 markets this year.

When AT&T identified three new cities to get 5G this year, it also said it has now launched LTE-LAA in parts of eight new markets: four in Texas—Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio—along with markets in Little Rock, Arkansas; San Jose, California; Tampa, Florida; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

That brings its total LTE-LAA markets to 15; it previously launched LTE-LAA in parts of Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, California, and McAllen, Texas.

AT&T previously said it plans to enable LTE-LAA in at least 24 markets this year, a goal the company reiterated through a spokesperson Friday.

With LTE-LAA, the network has peak theoretical wireless speeds reaching up to 1 gigabit per second on capable devices. According to AT&T, the following devices are LAA capable: Motorola Z2 Force Edition, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy S9+, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8 +, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, LG V30 and LG V35 ThinQ.

AT&T previously launched LTE-LAA in The Loop in Chicago, downtown Los Angeles, the financial district in San Francisco, and around Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We look forward to future deployments in additional markets this year,” the company told FierceWirelessTech.

LAA uses unlicensed spectrum to offer these gigabit-range speeds. Its predecessor, LTE-U, was the subject of a lot of debate between the cellular and Wi-Fi communities, the latter of which developed a Wi-Fi/LTE-U coexistence test plan to ensure LTE doesn’t crowd out Wi-Fi devices in unlicensed spectrum.

RELATED: SRG’s tests in chilly Indianapolis show LAA makes a difference for AT&T

Indianapolis was AT&T’s first announced LAA market, and Signals Research Group (SRG) went there on three separate occasions to measure network performance. The analyst firm tested AT&T’s network in the downtown area and found that indeed, LAA made difference, documenting a substantial impact on network performance benefiting both the operator and the consumer.

LAA has been called a “great equalizer” in that a lot of operators around the world don’t have enough licensed spectrum to achieve gigabit LTE, but if they use unlicensed spectrum and LAA, they're able to deliver that.

Verizon earlier this year said it would continue deploying LAA strategically; it did not see the need to blanket every market with it because it can be deployed in the more dense environments rather than every nick and cranny of a market.

T-Mobile announced last year that it would be focusing on its LAA deployment this year, upgrading small cells it’s already rolled out and installing a new modular solution with a single touch point. It was already seeing increases in speeds on the order of 5-10 times back in February.