Top executives from AT&T and Verizon talked about the state of the wireless industry at the Oppenheimer investor conference yesterday, when AT&T detailed its LTE plans and Verizon talked about its recent move to tiered pricing.
AT&T Mobility CFO Pete Ritcher said the company would launch its first LTE smartphone before year-end and was on track to be in 15 markets covering about 70 million people by the close of 2011. The operator will launch on a "market by market" basis, covering its core markets first and expanding from there.
"It won't be a situation where you get 50 million POPs and then turn it up," Ritcher said, adding customers would be able to fall back to the company's HSPA+ service when they move outside of LTE coverage. "It won't cover everything, but we'll have fallback to HSPA+. When you don't have the LTE network, you will fall back to much faster speeds than what our competitors have."
AT&T plans to launch LTE in five markets this summer.
AT&T's HSPA+ service offers faster speeds than Verizon's EV-DO network, but Verizon is far ahead of AT&T with LTE and has already launched the mobile broadband network in more than 100 markets.
Ritcher warned the pace of AT&T's LTE deployments could be affected by the FCC's review of the T-Mobile USA deal, saying "it will depend on where we end up with merger approvals where our pace is as we go on."
In a separate presentation at the conference, Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo provided some insight into the company's plan to end unlimited data.
"What we found was the $35 [unlimited] plan was diluting us pretty significantly," Shammo said, referring to the unlimited data plan the company introduced as part of its effort to promote the iPhone last winter.
Shammo said the company's switch to tiered data plans "have stemmed the ARPU dilutions."