AT&T's Stankey defends carrier's pace on HSPA+, LTE moves

AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) decision to move ahead with a nationwide rollout of HSPA+ technology makes sense from a business and technology standpoint, said AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey.  He also took another shot at rival Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), claiming the LTE ecosystem is not mature enough yet for a commercial rollout, and that Verizon's first LTE phones will be clunky.

john Stankey attIn an interview with GigaOM, Stankey said AT&T's upgrade from HSPA 7.2 to HSPA+ will cost around $10 million--a fraction of the $18 billion to $19 billion AT&T will spend on its wired and wireless networks this year. The carrier expects to cover 250 million people with HSPA+ this year, and the upgrade will boost the carrier's real-world download speeds from 3.5 Mbps (on HSPA 7.2) to around 7 Mbps (on HSPA+). Stankey said the action will give customers a speedy network to fall back to from LTE, once AT&T deploys that technology.

AT&T remains committed to deploying LTE in 2011.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam made waves recently by announcing the carrier will launch up to five LTE handsets by next May, possibly from the likes of Motorola (NASDAQ:MOT), HTC, LG and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM). Verizon plans to launch 25-30 commercial LTE markets in the fourth quarter, covering 100 million POPs.

Stankey also reiterated AT&T's criticisms of Verizon's LTE plans, claiming LTE will not be mature until 2014, and that mass-market LTE handsets will not appear until then. "The vendors are experiencing some challenges on certain features and software, and first implementations in 2011 will be ... pretty vanilla," he said.

For more:
- see this GigaOM post

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