Today’s 3G networks in many areas leave a lot to be desired no matter what carrier is used. The networks aren’t as fast as many users would like and in both rural and urban areas, the coverage of the networks is often patchy.
AT&T is the wireless provider that catches the most grief over its 3G network. This is particularly true with iPhone users who complain about a high percentage of dropped calls and slow data speeds. AT&T’s network quality angered some iPhone users to the point that some were calling for a mass assault dubbed Operation Chokehold where users would all go online at the same time in an attempt to crash the AT&T network. This operation was a response to AT&T’s threat to charge iPhone users more for using their unlimited data plans.
AT&T is working hard to fix its network issues and has pledged to spend huge sums of money in 2010 to improve its infrastructure with faster HSPA 7.2 speeds and preparations for the roll out of the AT&T LTE network late this year and in 2011. AT&T today announced that it has chosen the LTE equipment suppliers that will provide it with equipment to power its LTE network.
AT&T named Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as the equipment suppliers for the LTE network deployment. Both of the suppliers are currently providing gear to AT&T for its 3G networks. AT&T reports that it tested equipment from many manufacturers in the field and in the lab and ultimately chose to extend the current relationships with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson already in place.
One key to the decision was that both network hardware providers would provide AT&T with 3G equipment for its network today that can easily be upgraded for use with the faster HSPA 7.2 speeds coming soon and future LTE networks. This will prevent AT&T from needing to install new equipment in towers that it adds this year.
“The selection of Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson is an important step forward in our ongoing mobile broadband strategy, which is focused on delivering the best possible combination of speed, performance and available devices for customers at every level of technology deployment,” said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations. “AT&T has a key advantage in that LTE is an evolution of the existing GSM family of technologies that powers our network and the vast majority of the world’s global wireless infrastructure today. As some competitors move away from their existing investment in niche 3G platforms, we are able to efficiently and quickly move toward LTE while enhancing our existing 3G performance and providing access to a strong ecosystem of customer devices.”
Part of the agreement also names Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as the domain suppliers for the AT&T Radio Access Network Domain covering the equipment needed to deliver LTE service to customers. No financial terms for the deal with either provider were offered. AT&T claims that it has twice the number of smartphone users as its closest competitor and that its mobile broadband traffic has grown 5000% in the last three years, which goes right along with the introduction of the iPhone.
Verizon is also set to introduce LTE networks late in 2010 and in 2011 to its customers after originally stating LTE networks could debut in 2009.