AT&T has announced the first five markets for its LTE launch this summer.
Speaking at an investor conference this morning, AT&T enterprise chief John Stankey said the company would launch in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas.
The company plans to launch in more than 15 markets this year, covering 70 million people, and will add 20 devices working with its LTE network or upgraded HSPA service to its portfolio this year, Stankey said.
Tests of AT&T's LTE network show its speeds are "consistent" with its top competitors, Stankey said.
AT&T's LTE timeline puts it behind competitor Verizon Wireless, which launched its LTE network in 38 markets last December and has since aggressively expanded its national coverage. Verizon plans to turn on its LTE service in more than 145 cities by the end of this year and says it's on course to cover its entire 3G footprint with LTE by the end of 2013.
AT&T wants to use T-Mobile USA's AWS spectrum to beef up capacity on its LTE network, but the buyout of its smaller competitor isn't expected to close until next March, at the earliest.
Stankey said waiting for approval on the merger "doesn't necessarily [preclude] the possibility to have LTE deployed in the time frame we talked about."
Once the merger closes, AT&T plans to consolidate the combined companies' 2G networks and migrate customers off its legacy service.
"We don't want to run two of them, we want to run one of them," Stankey said of AT&T's and T-Mobile's 2G networks.
From there, the company will begin the work of combining cell sites with T-Mobile, repurposing spectrum and deploying its LTE network into areas outside its current roadmap. AT&T says it will expand its LTE network to cover an additional 55 million U.S. residents, many of whom live in rural areas with limited broadband access, if its merger with T-Mobile is approved.
Stankey also touched on ongoing issues with the performance of AT&T's wireless network. The company has been upgrading its HSPA services with additional backhaul. Stankey said half of AT&T's network traffic was carried over Ethernet backhaul by the end of the second quarter, and that its upgraded HSPA services offered a "40 percent increase in broadband throughput for an average user on our network."
Stankey said that although AT&T's overall wireless network was running the best it had in three years, there are still some trouble spots for the company in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"They're not getting better at the pace I'd like them to get better at," Stankey said.
AT&T is still working to improve its network in those areas.