In November, AT&T announced Project Velocity IP, which will cost the carrier $14 billion over three years to bring wired and wireless to more locations in the U.S. About $8 billion is for wireless alone.
AT&T is also buying up more spectrum that could help rural coverage. In January, AT&T said it would buy 39 licenses in the 700MHz band from Verizon for $1.9 billion. The licenses cover 42 million people in 18 states, including sparsely populated Montana, Idaho and Montana. The carrier says it penned nearly 50 agreements in 2012 to buy more spectrum, much of it from the Wireless Communications Service spectrum in 2300MHz channels.
AT&T also has supported small-cell technologies that can help bring wireless signals inside homes and businesses where copper and fiber do not reach.
John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T technology and network operations, says in a blog posted on January 30 that 40,000 small cells (such as femtocells, metrocells and multi-standard metrocells) will be deployed by the end of 2015.
However, while all the major carriers are interested in seeing costs go down for small cell technologies so that signals can be improved in areas where there is already spectrum, valleys, mountains and buildings can still get in the way.
In addition, Nicoll says that AT&T's use of AWS spectrum at 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz, along with 1900MHz spectrum, provides poorer wireless penetration inside buildings when compared to Verizon's 700MHz spectrum.
Sprint's Network Vision
Sprint's Network Vision plan will consolidate LTE with other traditional network technologies to provide cost savings.
Meanwhile, Softbank of Japan has proposed an $8 billion investment to buy Sprint and is already generating cash to pay for buying more spectrum, including spectrum from U.S. Cellular in the midwest.
Nicoll says Sprint and Softbank could shake up the wireless market if they use Clearwire's 2.5GHz spectrum for very fast (100Mbps or more) data-only service through dongles used with tablets and laptops. But that would probably focus on populous areas, not underserved areas.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS