Rumor Mill: AT&T may introduce speed tiers for LTE

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) plans to adopt different speed tiers--in addition to data buckets--when it launches its LTE network later this year, according to internal documents published by the blog Boy Genius Report.

According to the blog, the carrier will offer customers the opportunity to add more data to their bucket or boost their speed for an additional fee. The documents said market trials are expected to start in May. AT&T plans to launch commercial LTE service by mid-year.

The documents state that users taking advantage of a "Top Up" session will be allowed to increase the size of their data bucket for the remainder of their billing period. Additionally, users on the lower speed tier will be able to increase their data speeds via a "Speed Up" session for a specific--though undefined--time period. Any user on a tiered plan will be able to add more data, the documents state, but only users on the lower-speed tier will be able to increase their speeds.

An AT&T spokesman, Mark Siegel, declined to comment. "I can't speculate on what we might or might not do in the future," he told FierceWireless.

AT&T has said its LTE network will cover between 70 million and 75 million POPs by year-end, with the entire deployment completed by 2013. The carrier plans to launch numerous LTE smartphones, tablets, USB modems and hotspots in the second half of the year.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) launched LTE services in December across 39 markets covering around 110 million POPs, and plans to add 140 markets this year. The carrier currently offers service via two USB modems and provides 5 GB of LTE data for $50 per month or 10 GB of data for $80 per month on either a two-year contract or a no-contract basis; both options carry a $10 per GB overage charge. Verizon has promised to offer LTE smartphones in the coming months, but has yet to reveal LTE smartphone data pricing.

In the past, Verizon executives have hinted at charging for LTE based on speed. "If you want to pay for less speed, you'll pay for less speed and consume more, or you can pay for high speed and consume less," Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo told the Wall Street Journal in November.

For more:
- see this Boy Genius Report post

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