AT&T will launch its first LTE network in summer of 2011

AT&T will launch its first LTE network in the summer of 2011, its CEO has said.

Speaking at a Bank of America conference, AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey said the company believed it could cover between 70 and 75 million POPs (points of presence) by the end of 2011. He said the company was actively working with its primary LTE vendor partners-Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent– to get the network ready for launch.

However he didn’t specify how many markets would be covered, nor how many it was targeting for the launch. 

According to Fierce Wireless, Stankey also said the company wanted to wait for the LTE market to mature before moving forward with a full-scale deployment.

He said AT&T was working on a different kind of implementation for LTE than other carriers and needed to carry forward its UMTS services to ensure that voice and data services can work simultaneously on both UMTS and LTE. The company is spending $700 million in capital expenditures on LTE this year and “will go far beyond that” in 2011, Stankey said.

At the moment it is trialling LTE in Baltimore and Dallas, although it did not confirm if these markets would be the first to get LTE at launch

By way of comparison, Verizon Wireless will cover 100 million POPs in the U.S. with LTE by the end of 2010, spanning some 25 to 30 major metropolitan markets.

Sprint’s 4G efforts – which are encompassed by its WiMax roll-out – have been steadily making progress. It has 54 markets lit up with WiMax, with more to come later this year. Within a year’s time, many Americans should have access to two, if not three, 4G networks.

AT&T also readying a nationwide HSPA+ upgrade for this year, which AT&T executives have said will allow the carrier to deliver real-world download speeds of 7 Mbps.