On Wednesday, AT&T laid out a faster deployment schedule for its LTE network, saying it would launch services in the middle of this year and finish the rollout by the end of 2013. The carrier also began referring to its existing HSPA+ infrastructure as 4G, citing downstream HSPA+ speeds of 6M bps (bits per second), comparable to LTE performance. The LTE network will be even faster, the carrier said.
T-Mobile, the first U.S. operator to promote its HSPA+ network as 4G, said it would double the top speed of its own network this year by introducing a version of HSPA+ with a theoretical maximum speed of 42M bps downstream. (The carrier says its current network gives an average of 5M bps downstream to smartphones and 12M bps to laptop dongles.) The new technology should reach about 140 million people in 25 metropolitan areas this year, the carrier said. T-Mobile also said it would be upgrading the backhaul connections that link its base stations to the Internet, which is necessary to complete a fast Internet connection.
Sprint Nextel, which uses the WiMax network of its partner Clearwire for 4G, did not lay out any accelerated deployment plans for its infrastructure, which currently reaches nearly 120 million people. Clearwire, which is majority owned by Sprint, has been struggling to conserve cash and raise the funds for the next phase of its expansion. But on Thursday, Clearwire did release a brief video on results from its tests of LTE in Phoenix. Showing off its massive radio spectrum holdings, Clearwire demonstrated that it could deliver as much as 90M bps downstream and more than 30M bps upstream on an LTE network using one 20MHz channel downstream and another 20MHz channel upstream. That is much more spectrum than any other U.S. carrier is using today.
Clearwire advertises downstream speeds of between 3M bps and 6M bps downstream, with bursts of speed over 10M bps.
Verizon's Melone said real-world results have proven out his company's claims of between 5M bps and 12M bps downstream on LTE. Even on the edge of a cell, users are getting between 1M bps and 3M bps downstream, he said. The new technology has also cut by half the latency, or delay, in a connection when compared with 3G, he said. LTE users are getting latency of about 30 milliseconds, Melone said.
Network performance claims are becoming a key metric in carrier competition in the U.S., where there are few new subscribers to be found, said analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates.