AT&T looks to 4G with Qualcomm deal

As mobile phone companies Verizon and Sprint move closer to offering a 4G connection to their customers, AT&T seemed to be left in the dust until recently. AT&T announced today that the company has agreed to acquire spectrum licenses in the Lower 700 MHz frequency band from Qualcomm for $1.925 billion.

Qualcomm currently is using the Lower 700 MHz frequency band for their mobile television service, FLO TV. The business, FLO TV, and the network however are expected by Qualcomm to be shut down in March 2011, which will free up the frequency band for other uses.

The spectrum covers more than 300 million people nationwide with 12 MHz of the Lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum covering 70 million people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angele and San Francisco, and 6 MHz of the Lower 700 MHz D block spectrum covering more than 230 million people over the rest of the United States.

This acquisition will allow AT&T to make a stand in the 4G market by deploying the "spectrum as supplemental downlink, using carrier aggregation technology." The spectrum will start being deployed once compatible handsets and network equipment are constructed so that they may take advantage of the new technology.

Earlier this month, Verizon launched their 4G LTE technology covering 200 million people. 4G LTE, while faster than 3G still isn't true 4G according to the ITU-R definition of 4G. AT&T's entrance will also not be true 4G, but instead will fall into a similar category that Verizon and Sprint's 4G falls into. AT&T however, will be able to offer their technology to more than 300 million people nationwide, while Verizon only reaches 200 million people.

The transaction still has to go through regulatory approval before becoming official, but assuming all goes well, AT&T and Qualcomm will be closing the deal during the second half of 2011.

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Money would have been better spend upgrading the services they already have. "4G" phones aren't going to be dominating the market for a long time yet.
(Unless next iPhone has it built in)

Boy is AT&T lucky to have found this purchase. I'll bet they were really scrambling to try to find a way to keep up. I wonder if this will do anything to improve their abysmal network infrastructure... lol I'm guessing 'No'...

jafoman said,
Why on earth would they be marketing something as 4G when it's not? Why would they be allowed to?

I agree in large extent with vaximily post. From what I have heard, true 4G speeds aren't expected until the end of this decade. Seems like the standard is a bit over-zealous and should have been classified as 5G or something... the debate is old though. All providers seem to be abusing the "4G" terminology and that probably won't change despite all these Interwebz forum posts and news comments.

blahism said,
3g is fast in my area.. its just a ripoff.. 4g solves nothing when you're limited to 200megs or 2gigs for an entire month

^This.

blahism said,
3g is fast in my area.. its just a ripoff.. 4g solves nothing when you're limited to 200megs or 2gigs for an entire month

I agree.

blahism said,
3g is fast in my area.. its just a ripoff.. 4g solves nothing when you're limited to 200megs or 2gigs for an entire month

+1. I'm not going to be running to the AT&T store for a new 4G phone when it is available in my area. At this time, I get (on average) 3mbps downstream on 3G which is plenty fast for watching streaming video at my phone's screen resolution so what use would faster be to me?

Right now it seems like the target market is more for laptop users who have a 4G dongle/hot spot... but the data caps kill the lure.

blahism said,
3g is fast in my area.. its just a ripoff.. 4g solves nothing when you're limited to 200megs or 2gigs for an entire month

No caps on Sprint. Just sayin...

"As mobile phone companies Verizon and Sprint move closer to offering a 4G connection to their customers, AT&T seemed to be left in the dust until recently."

Huh? Verizon and Sprint aren't "moving closer", they both have 4G widely available. Granted, Verizon doesn't have handsets with it yet, while Sprint does. People need to pick, are we going with the "it's not 4G because it doesn't match ITU-R", or "it's 4G because it's the next generation of wireless" and quit muddying the waters with these half hearted articles that don't fully explain the difference.


"AT&T however, will be able to offer their technology to more than 300 million people nationwide, while Verizon only reaches 200 million people."

You are basing this on their currently-installed user base, which has nothing to do with 4G. LTE is new equipment which means the 3G towers they have today are mostly irrelevant to who they'll be able to cover tomorrow with 4G (unless they were to add LTE to every single tower they control which is highly unlikely). Also, those numbers are pretty skewed to begin with, anybody that has eyes can look at the various coverage maps available and point out that AT&T's coverage isn't nearly as comprehensive as Verizon's.

vaximily said,
"As mobile phone companies Verizon and Sprint move closer to offering a 4G connection to their customers, AT&T seemed to be left in the dust until recently."

Huh? Verizon and Sprint aren't "moving closer", they both have 4G widely available. Granted, Verizon doesn't have handsets with it yet, while Sprint does. People need to pick, are we going with the "it's not 4G because it doesn't match ITU-R", or "it's 4G because it's the next generation of wireless" and quit muddying the waters with these half hearted articles that don't fully explain the difference.


"AT&T however, will be able to offer their technology to more than 300 million people nationwide, while Verizon only reaches 200 million people."

You are basing this on their currently-installed user base, which has nothing to do with 4G. LTE is new equipment which means the 3G towers they have today are mostly irrelevant to who they'll be able to cover tomorrow with 4G (unless they were to add LTE to every single tower they control which is highly unlikely). Also, those numbers are pretty skewed to begin with, anybody that has eyes can look at the various coverage maps available and point out that AT&T's coverage isn't nearly as comprehensive as Verizon's.

+1 to all of your points. The "Is it 4G or not" debate is really getting on my nerves anymore. LOL

vaximily said,
Huh? Verizon and Sprint aren't "moving closer", they both have 4G widely available. Granted, Verizon doesn't have handsets with it yet, while Sprint does. People need to pick, are we going with the "it's not 4G because it doesn't match ITU-R", or "it's 4G because it's the next generation of wireless" and quit muddying the waters with these half hearted articles that don't fully explain the difference.

T-Mobile also already has 4G and has two phones to go with it.

andrewbares said,
T-Mobile also already has 4G and has two phones to go with it.
T-Mobile is labeling their upgraded 3G to be 4G. At best it's misleading, and at worst it's dishonest. Their 4G is identical to what AT&T offers as 3G (using the highend, most advanced stuff that the iPhone 4 started to take advantage of, and the iPhone 3GS did not support before it). HSPA+ is not 4G. Until T-Mobile rolls out LTE, which really is 4G, then they are simply lying to hide their shortcomings.

Also, Verizon is in the process of releasing LTE across its network, but it is far from widely available. Not to mention, the whole point of this conversation is with regards to the phone network. The only in-use LTE spectrum on Verizon is for their wireless data plans for computers, and not for phones. This is done to avoid the up-to two minute delay when switching from LTE to CDMA towers as coverage builds up; that is not the time it takes to get from one tower to the next, rather it is the time it takes the software to negotiate the hand-off from one to the other. In other words, it's unusable and it is the reason that Verizon delayed their rollout of LTE-based phones. This will be fixed, but it just has not been yet.

Sprint is playing it right, and they honestly do offer 4G with their growing WiMAX network. I think it would be amusing if Sprint pulled an upset and got the iPhone before Verizon.

andrewbares said,
T-Mobile also already has 4G and has two phones to go with it.
T-Mobile's 4G is HSPA+. This is the same technology that AT&T uses as part of its 3G network.

To be fair, AT&T has the fastest 3G network right now because of it. However, it's still 3G.

Verizon does not have LTE handsets because the handshake between LTE and CDMA can take up-to two minutes, which is necessary as you lose LTE signal.

Sprint is the only network that has a true 4G offering with regards to phones.

pickypg said,
T-Mobile's 4G is HSPA+. This is the same technology that AT&T uses as part of its 3G network.

To be fair, AT&T has the fastest 3G network right now because of it. However, it's still 3G.

Verizon does not have LTE handsets because the handshake between LTE and CDMA can take up-to two minutes, which is necessary as you lose LTE signal.

Sprint is the only network that has a true 4G offering with regards to phones.

LTE doesn't meet the ITU-R defined principles for 4G standards. WiMAX not so much either. At first glance it appeared you knew what you were talking about.

Soulsiphon said,
LTE doesn't meet the ITU-R defined principles for 4G standards. WiMAX not so much either. At first glance it appeared you knew what you were talking about.

His points still stand. ITU-R or not, Sprint and Verizon (and eventually, AT&T, according to this article) have actually rolled out upgraded next-generation networks, while T-Mobile has finally hit the same 3G tier that AT&T has been sitting on and pretending that it's 4G via their advertising.

Soulsiphon said,
LTE doesn't meet the ITU-R defined principles for 4G standards. WiMAX not so much either. At first glance it appeared you knew what you were talking about.
December 6, 2010: http://www.itu.int/net/pressof...press_releases/2010/48.aspx

ITU-R
As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as ā€œ4Gā€, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.
[emphasis mine]

The only unfortunate technicality is that "evolved 3G" probably includes HSPA+. I guess besides that is that I am willing to look at facts.

Beyond your petty retort, it's worth noting that no one really cares about the ITU-R. LTE and WiMax have already been correlated to 4G for the consumer as represented by the entire rest of this site. It was a whiny point to make by the ITU-R that somehow they were not 4G, even though they offer significant speed increases compared to the current 3G, and I would imagine it is a sad attempt for them to approach relevance. Besides, if that was the only point you had me on (back when it was true since all of October and November), then go troll somewhere else. Yeesh.

(And for anyone wondering why I posted two different posts above: the first one did not appear for a long time, so I assumed the request failed)