Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from Network World.
During a conference call hosted by the GSM Association Thursday, Kris Rinne, AT&T senior vice president of architecture and planning, said the company is content to sit back and wait until 2011 to start offering LTE. The reason, she said, is because the carrier wants to wait until there are more LTE-capable devices on the market. LTE is the GSM-based wireless data standard that has been adopted by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile as their choice for 4G wireless technology.
Rinne also said that AT&T’s 3G network, which the carrier has been aggressively upgrading over the past year, would be strong enough to handle data demand until it was ready to roll out 4G next year. AT&T currently uses the GSM-based HSPA standard for its 3G data services.
“Our underlying GSM and HSPA networks will be able to upgrade their capabilities… while laying the groundwork for LTE,” she said. “By improving our current HSPA capabilities, we can add more devices to our 3G portfolio while also growing our LTE portfolio.”
For the past year AT&T has been upgrading its 3G network to HSPA 7.2 technology that the company expects will cover 90 percent of its 3G network by the end of 2011. HSPA 7.2 is a variation of the GSM-based HSPA technology that has a peak speed of 7.2Mbps, although AT&T cautions that most users are unlikely to see data rates approaching theoretical peak speeds.
Rinne said that users can initially expect that AT&T LTE services will deliver the same applications that AT&T 3G customers currently enjoy and that the applications delivered over 4G will be faster and more reliable. In particular she said that LTE would provide for enhanced video and mobile gaming systems, as well as eventually voice services.
Both the GSMA and several mobile carriers are working on finalizing a voice standard for LTE that can be used in mobile devices released next year. Earlier this year, the GSMA decided to adopt a profile for voice-over-LTE in an effort to avoid fragmentation of LTE voice standards before the technology becomes more widely deployed. The association said that it embraced the VoLTE Initiative’s IMS-based approach since IMS “supports all voice call service features such as call waiting, call hold and call barring.”