Should AT&T already be talking about Advanced-LTE?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 12, 2011

Ah, 4G. It’s great, isn’t it? Our smartphones have access to the Internet faster than some people ever thought possible. They really are like little computers now (not that they weren’t before, technically), fully capable of browsing the Internet while on the go as if we never left out WiFi signal at home. Of course, it should go without being said that to enjoy that speedy benefit, you need to live in an area that has 4G coverage from your favorite carrier. Now, we’re not going to talk about who really has 4G and who doesn’t, because I think that’s a bit like nit-picking. (Granted, it’s a viable argument, we’re just not going to go there right now.) A few days ago AT&T revealed that they will begin rolling out Advanced-LTE in 2013, which is following in the steps of Sprint, and seemingly jumping ahead of Verizon. But, is AT&T aiming too high?

First, I will admit that I’m a little curious as to why Verizon isn’t jumping on the Advanced-LTE network bandwagon quite yet. It is, after all, the next logical step in the network infrastructure right after LTE, so it would make sense for Verizon to reveal that they, too, will be moving into that standard in the near future. But, instead we’ve got Sprint and AT&T talking about the expansion, which has us right here, and the only reason I’m a little confused about AT&T’s recent announcement, is the sheer fact that the wireless carrier has just started rolling out their legitimate 4G LTE network, and now they’re already talking about moving ahead of that in less than two years? Interesting.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t be confused about Verizon outlining plans to embrace Advanced-LTE at all. And, on the same side of the token, I’m perfectly okay with Sprint going ahead and telling everyone who cares that they will be moving to Advanced-LTE, too. It makes sense for Sprint because the company has already shown quite the focus in their expansion of the WiMax network they currently employ for their 4G devices. It is in that same state of mind that it would make sense for Verizon to start talking about the future, because they are already entrenched in their roll-out of 4G LTE, and the network is continuously expanding at a pretty good clip.

But AT&T is new to the whole show. Sure, they’ve had HSPA+ and other “4G” devices out in the wild, but we all know where that conversation can veer to, so we’ll just try to avoid it for now. We aren’t talking about HSPA+, but we’re focusing on LTE, which looks to be the network technology of choice for the major wireless carriers (moving forward). So while AT&T is currently just starting their LTE roll-out, we’ve already got the carrier confirming that they will be moving to yet another network type in under a year. That seems slightly short-sighted, and it doesn’t do well for the general consumer who reads that. I’ve already been asked if Advanced-LTE will mean another change for customers, for handsets, and for the network’s plans.

In truth, we have no idea how an update to the network will go, and it wouldn’t be fair to AT&T to sit here and subject ourselves to conjecture. The Big Blue network could very well roll out Advanced-LTE without a hitch; change nothing about their plans, and even incorporate new phones into their ranks without much fanfare. (I seriously doubt this last part, but there’s a chance.) I do think that AT&T should have kept their plans in place, yes, but not necessarily made it public knowledge quite yet. People love to embrace new technology and what not, but if they know something better is coming soon, viewpoints change, as they should. So, AT&T is basically saying right now, “Here, love 4G LTE right now, but get ready for Advanced-LTE right around the corner!”

AT&T should be focused entirely on their LTE roll-out, and that’s it. That’s it. And while I’m sure they are for the most part, the moment you start talking about what’s to come, you’ve already admitted that you’ve got more than a few eyes looking more into the future rather than staring at what’s going on right now. Problems happen that way – it’s always safer to just focus on the here and now, and get to the future when you’ve got your feet firmly planted in the present.