AT&T's first LTE-capable device won't roam onto Verizon's LTE network

AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) recently announced LTE-capable USB stick will not work on the LTE network Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is scheduled to launch later this year, according to an AT&T spokeswoman. The news underscores the business and technical challenges that remain in the market's push for LTE network technology.

ATT Adrenaline LG Verizon LTEAT&T earlier this month unveiled the USBConnect Adrenaline from LG as its first LTE-upgradeable device. Customers will be able to use the gadget on AT&T's forthcoming LTE via a software upgrade. The Adrenaline supports LTE in the 1700/2100/700 MHz bands, and goes for $49.99 with a two-year contract, data plan and mail-in rebate.

However, AT&T spokeswoman Jenny Bridges confirmed the gadget will not work over the 700 MHz LTE network Verizon plans to launch later this year. Verizon has said it expects to cover 38 cities and 110 million POPs this year with LTE, while AT&T has said it will launch LTE in the 700 MHz and AWS bands (1700/2100 MHz) next year, covering 70-75 million POPs by the end of 2011.

Though the nation's two largest carriers are using the same band--700 MHz--for LTE, the two are using different flavors of 700 MHz for their LTE network deployments. Verizon acquired most of the FCC's 700 MHz C Block spectrum (which lies in band class 13) in 2008, while many of AT&T's 700 MHz licenses sit in the lower C and B Blocks (which lie in band class 17). Thus, to reliably roam from AT&T's LTE network to Verizon's, device makers will first have to build LTE gadgets that support band classes 13 and 17. AT&T and Verizon also would have to ink an LTE roaming agreement.

While notable, the fact that AT&T's first LTE-capable device can't be used on Verizon's LTE network isn't exactly a surprise. Roaming considerations often take a backseat in wireless carriers' network deployments. And despite the fact that LTE will form the basis for much of the world's move to 4G network technology, the hodgepodge of spectrum allocated to LTE likely will prevent ubiquitous roaming for some time. Indeed, MetroPCS' (NYSE:PCS) Samsung Craft--the nation's first LTE phone--does not support 700 MHz connections and therefore won't work on Verizon's forthcoming network either.

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