During an analyst conference for investors, AT&T revealed today that it plans to cover 300 million US residents with 4G LTE service by the end of 2014. Prior to this, the carrier promised to have 250 million covered by the end of 2013. Comparatively, AT&T has lagged behind Verizon in its nationwide LTE rollout, as Verizon intends to have 260 million residents covered by the end of this current year. Verizon also has over 400 markets blanketed with its LTE service.
AT&T says that it has acquired the spectrum necessary for its rollout through over 40 deals with other companies this year, and it plans to buy more in the future. Part of AT&T's spectrum acquisition includes 2.3GHz WCS spectrum that was recently approved for use with LTE networks. The carrier claims that once all of the regulatory procedures have been completed, it will have about 118MHz of spectrum available to it across the nation. Compared to Verizon and its 105MHz, AT&T will have more spectrum at its disposal, but Sprint and Softbank are still far ahead with their 195MHz of available spectrum. AT&T does have an advantage over Sprint in that it owns the rights to more low band spectrum, which is more valuable and easier to build nationwide networks on. Of course, AT&T likely wouldn't have had to make so many deals to acquire rights to spectrum if last year's attempt to purchase T-Mobile USA had not fallen through, but given the carrier's new projections, it appears that it won't have as much trouble covering most of the nation with LTE as it had initially warned.
Further, the carrier reiterated its plans to increase the density levels of its network through the use of small cells, macro cells, and distributed antenna systems. AT&T says that these measures will increase network performance in congested areas such as large cities, and it will allow the carrier to more efficiently use the spectrum available to it. The higher density efforts also provide support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services, but AT&T did not say when it expects to offer VoLTE to customers.
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