AT&T is leveraging its extensive wireline infrastructure to expand its LTE network into new markets across nearly two dozen states.
The LTE service will cover 99 percent of "customer locations" across AT&T's 22-state wireline area, growing to rural markets it may have otherwise left unserved.
The operator now estimates its LTE network will cover 300 million people by the end of 2014, up from its current plan to cover 250 million people by the end of 2013.
The plan is part of a $14 billion project to expand AT&T's wireless and fixed Internet service over the next three years, with $8 billion going to wireless and $6 billion going to wireline.
"Project Velocity IP (VIP)" will reinvigorate AT&T’s aging landline infrastructure, whose growth has fallen well behind its booming wireless business. AT&T will also deploy small cells and distributed antenna systems as part of the project.
“This is a major commitment to invest in 21st-century communications infrastructure for the United States and bring high-speed Internet connectivity – 4G LTE mobile and wireline IP broadband – to millions more Americans,” CEO Randall Stephenson said.
He called the expenditures "manageable" and said the investments were "logical extensions of proven technologies and already successful businesses."
Declines in legacy landline revenue offset growth in AT&T's high-speed Internet and U-verse service last quarter, resulting in a slight dip in wireline sales. Meanwhile, sales grew more than 6 percent to $16.6 billion in AT&T's wireless division.
AT&T's expansion of LTE into smaller markets follows a move by Verizon Wireless to grow its rural presence by partnering with regional providers through its LTE in Rural America program. Bluegrass Cellular became the third provider to launch LTE through the initiative this week, with the debut of the service in Kentucky.