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AT&T LTE 4G Network, Device Roster Grow

AT&T's Long Term Evolution 4G network now covers nine markets; HTC Vivid and Samsung Skyrocket phones debut.

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AT&T launched its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G network September 18 in five markets. Those initial markets were Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Sunday, AT&T's LTE network spread to Baltimore, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Athens, Ga., bringing the total number of markets covered to nine.

The telecom announced Friday that it plans to launch LTE in New York City "soon," though it didn't specify when. AT&T has committed to lighting up LTE in a total of 15 markets by the end of the year, covering some 70 to 75 million POPs (points of presence). Depending on how far from New York's five boroughs AT&T's LTE network spreads, the NYC metro region alone could make up 15% to 20% of AT&T's entire LTE footprint for 2011.

In addition to the market expansion, AT&T Sunday also launched its first two LTE smartphones, the HTC Vivid and the Samsung Skyrocket (nee Galaxy S II variant #3,847). AT&T hasn't marketed its LTE 4G network speeds, but says they will be similar to what Verizon Wireless offers (5 Mbps-12 Mbps downloads, 2 Mbps-5 Mbps uploads).

Both the Vivid and the Skyrocket are souped-up versions of existing handsets and, aside from their faster data radio, don't set the bar particularly high. But, for the AT&T customers looking to have an LTE 4G network nearly all to themselves, they're capable business and entertainment machines.

[We're moving at a breakneck pace toward pervasive mobility. Learn how to stay safe; read Mobile Device Management On The Edge.]

How much will the plans cost? Unbelievably, AT&T is charging the exact same amount for its LTE 4G network it is for its WCDMA/HSPA 3G network.

The entry point for AT&T's LTE 4G network is a meager $15 per month, if you don't mind being limited to 200 MB of data. Of course, that's a bit like purchasing a Porsche 911 Turbo and and then only using it to drive to the corner market for milk, eggs, and bread. If you go over the 200 MB limit (which is highly likely if you're really going to put the 4G speeds to the test), AT&T will ding you for $15 per additional 200 MB. To paint a depressing picture, if you subscribe to the 200 MB plan, and accidentally use 601 MB, you're going to shell out $45 that month.

Real 4G subscribers will want the 2 GB plan, which costs just $25 per month. Don't worry too much if you exceed your 2 GB limit. AT&T will only add $10 per additional 1 GB to your bill. Returning to the Porsche 911 Turbo analogy, at least this way you're taking it out on the highway for a good workout every now and then.

Last up, if you need to tether or turn your LTE 4G smartphone into a mobile hotspot, you'll want to pick the DataPro 4 GB plan, which lets mobile pros consume 2 GB of data from their smartphone and an additional 2 GB of data when tethered or using the mobile hotspot feature. This way, not only are you taking the 911 out on the highway, you're letting it stretch its legs a bit and perhaps leaving some BMW M3s and Audi S4s in the dust.

Mobile professionals' 4G options seem to grow every day. Now that AT&T is starting to get its true 4G legs under it, the race can fully get underway.

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