No matter how you define 4G, this next-generation technology is widespread in the U.S. market. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA have widely deployed HSPA+ and AT&T is expected to commercially launch its LTE service at any moment in at least five cities with a goal of blanketing at least 15 markets with LTE this year.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) now has its 4G LTE service available in 143 markets covering more than 160 million POPs and and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which currently resells Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX service, is expected to reveal more about its 4G plans during its Oct. 7 investor meeting. Of course, WiMAX stalwart Clearwire has now announced it will deploy LTE-Advanced in addition to maintaining its existing WiMAX network, a move that, while expected, will certainly be closely watched by the industry in the months and years ahead.
4G is also becoming a reality among the smaller operators. MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) now has LTE service in 14 markets and is rapidly expanding its LTE device portfolio. Alaska Communications is expected to launch LTE at any moment and U.S. Cellular is planning to begin deploying LTE in November.
So what does all this mean for the state of 4G technology? It means that now the focus has moved beyond deployment to the next set of issues--making the most of the 4G technology. For many operators, that means continually enhancing the backhaul network to ensure that customers are benefiting from the faster speeds and bigger bandwidth LTE provides. It also means more focus on delivering the types of services that customers want--like video--efficiently and without hindering the network performance. It also means that it's time to start working on complex issues like LTE roaming, which is promising to be very big issue considering all the various spectrum bands where LTE is being deployed globally.
Of course, now that LTE is being deployed, the industry is already starting to look at the next step in the technology evolution path--LTE-Advanced. What advantages does LTE-Advanced provide and when will this technology likely be commercially deployed?
FierceWireless will delve into all these issues and more during its annual "Future of 4G" virtual conference next Tuesday, Sept. 20 starting at 8 a.m. EST. We have some great speakers lined up, including Craig Frost, executive director of network at Verizon Wireless; Roger Hutton, chairman and CEO of NetAmerica Alliance; Steve Berry, president of the Rural Cellular Association; James Seymour, senior director, wireless CTO organization at Alcatel-Lucent; and more! To view the entire agenda and register (attendance is free!), click here. --Sue