AT&T will turn on its new LTE network in the first five cities on Sunday, company CFO John Stephens announced during the Merrill Lynch Media Communications and Entertainment Conference today.
"We will launch our initial five LTE markets this Sunday," Stephens said.
The company had previously said it would launch the service in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio sometime this summer. This is the first time the company has confirmed a launch date.
The Sept. 18 debut of the service will help AT&T start to catch up with Verizon Wireless, whose LTE network already covers 160 million people in 143 cities. AT&T is already marketing its HSPA+ service as 4G.
AT&T plans to add another 10 LTE markets before the end of the year, to cover 70 million people. The operator has pledged to add 20 devices compatible with HSPA+ or LTE this year and came out with its first LTE devices – a USB modem and a Wi-Fi hotspot – in August.
It is not clear how AT&T's LTE plans will be affected by the problems it's having with the T-Mobile USA deal. AT&T wants to use T-Mobile's AWS spectrum for its LTE network, but that plan will have to be scrapped if it is unable to get the merger passed by government regulators. AT&T is currently using its 700 MHz holdings for its LTE build.