AT&T Today Debuts 4G LTE Service, Primed for Apple iPad 3 Release 2

AT&T today announces 4G LTE availability in five US cities, and 15 major markets to come this year.

BREAKING: AT&T says it is today rolling out its 4G LTE network in five US cities, with 15 major markets to come by year's end. That's just in time for the arrival of the Apple iPad 3 and the iPhone 5, reportedly due next month.

If you're an AT&T customer who lives in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston or San Antonio, Texas, you're first in line for the new service. Who's next? AT&T says odds are good that, if you live in a major city, you'll be among the 70 million customers able to connect by the end of the year -- but with a caveat.

According to reports, just a few devices will support the device at today's launch. Those include the AT&T powered Jetstream tablet from HTC and two other 4G products, a modem and a mobile hot spot 4G product.

If you own a Lucky Goldstar (LG) USBConnect Adrenaline device, it will be upgradable to LTE via a software update, said AT&T.

AT&T also suggested its upcoming LTE smartphone, the upcoming HTC Holiday, will make use of it, too. That device will reportedly include a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon SoC processor, a 540x960 display, runs Android 2.3.4 and will feature HTC's Sense 3.0 user interface as the cherry on top, execs said.

So far, prices for LTE service sound, well, kind of pricey. AT&T announced 5GB of data will cost $50. Ouch. It's all about bang for the buck, though, and tech pros will pay if performance improvements match expectations.

AT&T obviously is hoping to catch up with Verizon here. Verizon launched nearly a year ago with its 4G LTE service in 38 cities. As of last Thursday, that service was available in more than 140 markets at 150 plus million access points.

Will AT&T catch up? Can it?

AT&T exec John Donovan has an edgy response to that question on his blog here .

He emphasizes that LTE stands for Long Term Evolution -- not rush to market evolution.

An excerpt from Donovan's blog, below.

In their haste to build LTE networks, some wireless service providers are stinging from their decisions not to update their current networks. They have just one way to spell speed, and it’s "LTE." (Competitors to AT&T will tell you that data is the primary mode of mobile communication today, and speed matters.)

We agree.

They’ll tell you that LTE is the path to data speed. We’d agree again, but with some important details that they tend to leave out .. we .. know that the best mobile broadband experience is based on consistent speed. We’ve delivered five mobile broadband speed upgrades in recent years, including our HSPA+ deployment.

Our HSPA+ network and upgraded backhaul is expected to deliver speed performance similar to initial LTE deployments. That matters because when we begin commercial deployment of LTE, customers on our LTE network will be able to fall back to HSPA+. \As they do, they’ll receive a more consistent mobile broadband experience that supports simultaneous voice and data connections and higher speeds than the others can provide outside their LTE footprint.

If you're in one of the cities AT&T rolls out LTE tech in on Sunday, I'd love to hear your experience with it. Share it in comments below.

So how will AT&T's speed compare to Verizon's LTE 4G service. We'll see in a few hours. Stay tuned to BYTE as we review, test and analyze.

Based in San Francisco, Gina Smith is the editor-in-chief of BYTE and the best-selling co-author of Steve Wozniak's biography iWOZ: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It from WW Norton. She also co-authored the just-released The Mountain Within: Leadership Lessons for Your Climb to the Top from McGraw Hill. Follow her @ginasmith888 or email her at [email protected]

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