AT&T LTE service to launch by midyear

AT&T will commercially launch its 4G LTE services sometime this summer, the carrier announced today at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Also read: Sprint's EVO Shift 4G: Smaller, cheaper and with a real keyboard

AT&T did not give any details of how many markets its LTE network would launch in this summer and the carrier would only say that its LTE network would be completely built out by the end of 2013.

AT&T also announced that it would be launching around 20 different "4G devices" this year, although many of those devices will actually run on its 3G HSPA+ wireless network. Much like rival carrier T-Mobile, AT&T refers to both the LTE and HSPA+ wireless standards as "4G" technologies even though HSPA+ is most widely considered a faster and more reliable version of the 3G GSM-based HSPA standard.

AT&T showcased three upcoming HSPA+ devices at CES today: the Motorola ATRIX 4G, the Samsung Infuse 4G and the HTC Inspire 4G. All three devices ran on Android's 2.2 ("Froyo") platform and all three supported the HTML 5 web development standard that has been pushed as an alternative to Flash for Web videos.

Of the three new devices, ATRIX had the most intriguing presentation since Motorola paired it up with a laptop dock that allowed the device's screen, applications and capabilities to all be integrated into a laptop. During the demonstration video, Motorola showed how a laptop could take data directly from the smartphone and edit it as though it had originated on the laptop itself. It also showed how the laptop could be used to enact such crucial smartphone functions as text messaging and voice calling when integrated with the ATRIX. The device is also notable for featuring a dual-core 1GHz processor, giving it more total processing power than any other smartphone currently on the market.

AT&T did not give any details on other devices due to be released for either its HSPA+ or LTE networks although the company did say it planned to have an LTE tablet on the market this summer. 4G technologies such as LTE and WiMAX represent the next stage in the evolution of wireless data technologies and generally deliver average download rates of 3Mbps or higher. In contrast, today's 3G networks typically deliver average download speeds about one-tenth of that rate.

Verizon and Sprint are currently the only major wireless carriers that offer 4G services, as Verizon launched its LTE network commercially last month while Sprint and Clearwire have been rolling out their WiMAX network across the country for the past two years. AT&T's commitment to launch LTE in the U.S. this year leaves T-Mobile as the only major U.S. wireless carrier to not set a firm timetable for rolling out 4G services.

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Tags MotorolawirelessNetworkingat&tWiMAX & LTE

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