AT&T network to go live in five markets on 18 September

US operator AT&T will officially launch its LTE network next week, lighting up five markets on Sunday 18th September. The news was revealed by CFO John Stephens during the Entertainment & Communications conference at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media.

The five cities to get the service at launch will be Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. AT&T said that it expects to reach 15 markets by the end of the year with population coverage of 70 million people.

Rival Verizon Wireless launched its LTE network in December 2010, and currently covers 143 markets covering a potential 160 million users.

The operator, which is the second largest in the US behind Verizon Wireless, according to Informa WCIS stats, has said it hopes to expand its LTE network by merging with rival T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telecom. However, it may well have to explore other options following US Justice Department filing a lawsuit to block the deal. Rival Sprint Nextel has also filed a lawsuit to prevent the deal from moving forward.

To ensure early LTE adopters on its network can hit the ground running AT&T has already released LTE capable devices onto the market in the guide of a USB Connect Momentum 4G modem and a Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G device, and using these some users were able to detect early signs of AT&T’s network a few weeks ago.

A third device, the LG Adrenaline USBConnect will be upgradable to LTE via a firmware update, the operator said and the operator also offers a tablet device with integrated LTE, the 10.1in HTC Jetstream. The Apple iPhone 5 is strongly rumoured to be released on AT&T and other networks in October, though at this stage most analysts believe that it is unlikely to feature support for LTE.

The LTE North America 2011 conference takes place on the 8-9 November 2011 in Dallas, Texas.

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