Photo Credit: flickr.com/ methodshop.com
On Thursday, AT&T announced that it will be expanding its 4G LTE coverage to nine new markets in the United States, with 40 more to come before the end of 2012. This news comes as Apple is expected to unveil its rumored iPhone 5 release on Sept. 12, just six days away, according to Apple Insider.
Apple's Retina Display iPad "3" is the company's only device currently offering 4G LTE connectivity, but this has been a highly-rumored feature for the iPhone 5 for quite some time. AT&T, the nation's second largest wireless network carrier, has said the 4G LTE service is capable of delivering Internet speeds that are up to 10 times faster than that of 3G networks. The company has also invested more than $115 billion into operations, acquiring spectrum, and other assets to enhance its wireless network over the past five years.
AT&T also offers another network known as HSDPA, which is not to be confused with 4G. The carrier began advertising this network as iOS 5.1 rolled out for the iPhone 4S while they were working to launch the true 4G LTE network. This HSDPA network allows iPhone 4S devices to reach speeds similar to 4G, but it is not a fourth generation network.
This gives AT&T another boost in the market against competitors Verizon and Sprint, who both run CDMA networks with slower 3G speeds.
This is just yet another indication that AT&T is preparing for the release date of the iPhone 5. It was reported near the end of August that a "trusted AT&T source" told BGR that AT&T is planning to launch Apple's iPhone 5 during the third or fourth week of September. An all-hands-on deck policy will be put in place for employees and will extend through the middle of October.
A second source from AT&T also allegedly told BGR that a large training event for regional employees had been moved from the first week of October due to a "major announcement."
The news that AT&T is spreading its LTE network adds more credibility to the rumor that Apple's iPhone 5 will come with 4G LTE. At the end of August it was also reported that the next-generation iPhone will support the first network of this kind in the United Kingdom.
U.K. communications regulator Ofcom granted approval to Everything Everywhere, the parent company of mobile providers Orange and T-Mobile, to launch the nation's first 4G LTE network beginning on Sept. 11. This is just a day before Apple's press event, where the official iPhone 5 announcement is expected to come.
It was reported that the iPhone 5 will be the first smartphone to utilize this network in the U.K., and Everything Everywhere may be an "exclusive" carrier of 4G LTE service in the U.K. for the next iPhone, according to Cult of Mac.
Analyst with Jefferies & Co. Thomas Seitz recently said that be believes LTE will play a big role in users' choice to switch carriers when the iPhone 5 release date arrives. Seitz predicted that customers currently subscribing to AT&T could be tempted to switch to Verizon's LTE-capable network, according to CNET.
AT&T's announcement that it will roll out LTE to more areas of the United States comes only days after the prediction was made. Verizon is expected to add another 260 million people in more than 400 locations to its LTE network by the end of 2012, just a couple of months after the iPhone 5 launch.
Currently, AT&T's LTE network only covers about 80 million people.
"We believe this network advantage could lead to a share shift towards Verizon, primarily AT&T's expense," Seitz said, "which we estimate could see its market share of iPhone sales decline modestly to 45 percent in 3Q12 from 47 percent in 2Q12."
In addition to LTE connectivity, Apple's iPhone 5 is expected to come equipped with a variety of new features, such as improved software and a redesigned body. Some of these features include a longer 4-inch display, tougher glass, a quad-core processor, improved graphics and a better camera, redesigned speaker grills and a new dock connection. The next-generation operating system iOS 6 is expected to come with many Siri improvements, the brand new Apple Maps, the Passbook feature and better integration with Facebook and Twitter.
To see the full list of new LTE markets covered by AT&T and the areas they plan to cover by the end of the year, click here.
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