After spending more than $16 million on network improvements and upgrades in the first half of 2012, AT&T today turned on its 4G LTE mobile broadband network in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.
The move brings AT&T's 4G LTE — which stands for fourth generation long term evolution — network on par with its largest competitor and Nebraska's prominent cellular vendor, Verizon Wireless, which activated its 4G LTE network just more than one year ago in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro and later in Lincoln.
“Omaha, as a community, stands out because of its economic favorability,” said Hardmon Williams, AT&T’s vice president and general manager for Nebraska, Minnesota and the Northern Plains. “The community is very balanced from a diversity standpoint and we’ve had a long, good commercial relationship with the consumer and enterprise customers here.
“It’s a booming economic culture, and so it reflects much of what we like to see in terms of customer demand.”
AT&T’s upgraded network spans roughly from the eastern edge of Council Bluffs as far west as Valley. It will reach as far north as Bennington and Washington County, and south toward Springfield.
The announcement is another signal that when Apple unveils its latest iPhone handset next week, it will become the first iPhone to run on the ultra-speedy 4G LTE networks. Of the major carriers that have rights to sell the iPhone, including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, Sprint is the only provider that does not yet offer 4G LTE in Omaha.
Previously, AT&T had operated a slower 4G network in Omaha called HSPA-plus — or Evolved High-Speed Packet Access — that is created by boosting the capabilities and speeds of its existing 3G network.
The $16 million in network upgrades, AT&T said, include:
>> Activating two new cellular towers in the Omaha area to improve network coverage.
>> Adding capacity, known as layers of frequency, to cell sites. Think of this as the telecommunications version of adding lanes to a highway.
>> Deploying faster fiber-optic cable connections to 88 cell sites.
>> Installing the necessary equipment for reaching 4G LTE speeds in Omaha.
The timing of AT&T's announcement is important for Apple as well. The iPhone is Apple's top-selling product, accounting for roughly half of the of Cupertino Calif.-based company's sales in the third quarter, which ended in June.
And unlike competitors, Apple is reliant on the iPhone, which is typically upgraded or revamped just once a year. In contrast, Samsung Electronics has become the world's largest smartphone makers mostly by designing, manufacturing and releasing handfuls of different models each year.
4G LTE USERS WILL NOTICE AT&T CHANGE
With AT&T's 4G LTE — Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution — network now available in Omaha-Council Bluffs, things are going to get quite a bit speedier for AT&T customers with 4G-enabled handsets.
When the cellular giant flips the switch on its Omaha data network, here are some questions consumers might have:
Q: I already have a AT&T 4G-enabled smartphone, what does this mean for me?
A: First, it means your streaming (movies through Netflix, music on Spotify, and games requiring mobile broadband access) and downloading (applications, or apps, and email attachments, for example) will happen a lot faster.
Q: How much faster?
A: According to AT&T, its 4G LTE network will be about 10 times faster than its 3G, or third-generation, network. However, AT&T also has another, slower version of its 4G network called HSPA — a boosted version of AT&T's 3G network — that has already been available in Omaha. The company's HSPA network is about four times faster, on average, than its 3G service. With 4G LTE, AT&T boasts you can upload a photo to Facebook or Twitter in six seconds, download a song in four seconds, full-length movies in minutes, and applications, or apps, “almost instantly.”
Q: What phones work on 4G LTE?
A: AT&T devices enabled for 4G LTE include high-end Samsung, HTC, Nokia, and LG smartphones, as well as certain mobile broadband routers and tablet computers. A new Apple iPhone, set to be unveiled next week, is expected to be 4G LTE-compatible. For more information on LTE-compatible phones, visit: www.att.com/network
Q: Do I need to change my service or contract?
A: No. If you already have a data plan through AT&T, your plan will not change.
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This report includes material from Bloomberg News.