AT&T plans to roll out its 4G LTE wireless service to New York this month, as well as in other undisclosed markets by year’s end, the nation’s No. 2 carrier announced. Overall, AT&T expects to cover 70 million people with its high-speed LTE network by the end of 2011, consistent with its prior projections.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T’s chief rival, is already well ahead in deploying its own 4G LTE network, which it expects will cover nearly 200 million people in 190 markets nationwide by year’s end. Speaking at the UBS analyst conference in New York, AT&T CFO John Stephens, however, indicated that the urgency to expand LTE is coming from consumer demand for mobile broadband services.
AT&T expects record smartphone sales in the fourth quarter, after selling about 6 million units in the first two months of the quarter. The prior single-quarter record for smartphone sales is 6.1 million. The carrier has previously said it activated more than 1 million iPhone 4S handsets in the first five days the Apple device was available.
For AT&T iPhone customers in New York, the news that AT&T is launching 4G service in the city could be seen as something of a long-awaited holiday gift. New York, along with San Francisco, has historically been one of the epicenters of complaints from iPhone users about dropped calls and spotty service on AT&T’s 3G network. In addition to faster data connections, LTE could also lead to more reliable voice service.
Despite its 4G push, AT&T this week was again rated as the worst of the four major U.S. mobile operators in Consumer Reports’ annual customer satisfaction survey of wireless providers. Verizon scored the highest, followed closely by Sprint, which is rolling out its own 4G LTE network. Sprint CFO Joseph Euteneuer said at the UBS conference this week that the company's first wave of 4G LTE handsets would debut in the second half of 2012.