AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all claim to offer nation's 'largest 4G network'

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) launched a new battle in the "4G" marketing wars in the United States with the claim that it now has the nation's largest 4G network. The carrier's argument rests on AT&T's combined LTE and HSPA+ network with enhanced backhaul.

AT&T nation's largest 4g network

AT&T's new ads claim the carrier operates the nation's "largest 4G network."

AT&T began adding the "largest 4G network" to its marketing on Sunday. The effort is notable considering both Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA also tout their respective networks as the largest 4G networks in the country. AT&T's claim is also somewhat ironic in that AT&T chided T-Mobile in 2010 for claiming its HSPA+ network was "4G."

The battle over what constitutes 4G spurred lawmakers last year to introduce legislation that would require wireless carriers to spell out the guaranteed minimum data speed that their networks will deliver when they market their services as "4G." Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation in the House last summer, and the bill would require carriers to provide information on the underlying technology they are using to provide 4G service and network conditions that may impact the speed of applications and services used on the network. Sens. Amy Kobuchar (D- Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced similar legislation in October.

An AT&T spokeswoman noted that the carrier's competitors claim to cover around 200 million people with their respective 4G technologies, "and we are significantly ahead of them based on internal and third-party data."

AT&T has long claimed that it has an advantage because its HSPA+ network with enhanced backhaul--which the spokeswoman said "covers more customers than any competitor's 4G network and delivers great speeds up to four times faster than 3G"--allows its customers to avoid a sharp drop in download speeds outside of LTE coverage areas.

AT&T's LTE network covers 74 million POPs in 28 markets. A spokeswoman declined to comment on how many POPs its HSPA+21 network with enhanced backhaul covers, but AT&T said on its website that its 4G networks cover more than 200 million POPs.

A Verizon spokesman declined to comment, but noted that Verizon's LTE network now covers 196 markets and more than 200 million POPs. T-Mobile's HSPA+ 21 network covers 217 markets and more than 200 million POPs and its HSPA+42 network covers 175 markets and 184 million POPs. Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which offers mobile WiMAX service via Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), also calls its service 4G and covers 130 million POPs.

For more:
- see this AT&T site

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