Excited about the impending launch of AT&T's 4G LTE network and the high-speed devices that are sure to come with it? Hopefully you're ok with using a hotspot or laptop dongle to hop on AT&T's new LTE airwaves, because that's all you'll be getting initially. Peter Ritcher, AT&T's senior vice president of mobility and consumer markets, said today that his carrier doesn't expect to offer its first LTE-enabled smartphone until close to the end of 2011. The good news is that Richter also said that AT&T's LTE network is still on track to launch in five markets — Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio — this summer and that it's expected to cover 15 markets and 70 million users by the time that 2012 rolls around.
Richter also touched a bit on AT&T's HSPA+ network, explaining that AT&T is in no rush to deploy LTE in an attempt to catch up to Verizon's 4G network coverage. AT&T would rather continue to bolster its HSPA+ network with enhanced backhaul while it waits for LTE smartphones to mature, Richter said. Speaking of enhanced backhaul, the exec explained that 54 percent of AT&T's traffic uses its enhanced backhaul, with around 90 percent of the traffic in markets like San Francisco and Chicago using the upgraded tech.
This news is definitely a bummer for AT&T customers that have been drooling over the LTE devices that have been hitting Verizon's shelves since the ThunderBolt debuted back in March. There's still no word on exactly what kind of device AT&T is even planning to launch as its first LTE smartphone, although recent rumors allege that this mystery Motorola device could feature support for AT&T's new LTE network.