Our 4G LTE network is 2 to 3 years behind Verizon’s, AT&T CEO claims

We reported last week that AT&T will be launching their 4G LTE network in five major cities by the end of the year.

AT&T has been claiming through their continuous advertising that they have 4G network and released “4G” enabled devices that have been plagued with data connectivity issues. These devices (Atrix 4G, Inspire 4G and Infuse 4G) are currently working on AT&T’s HSDPA network and aren’t living up to their true potential.

AT&T’s CEO Ralph de la Vega, who was the guest of the Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D9 Conference, claimed that “within two to three years, LTE coverage will indistinguishable”, when asked when his company will catch up with Verizon Wireless. Big Red has already 55 markets enrolled in its 4G LTE network and is planning on adding 21 more during this month.

AT&T is on the verge of acquiring T-Mobile which isn’t a done deal. De la Vega says that the merger will improve the quality of AT&T’s network in some of the major cities in the U.S. such as New York and San Fransisco.

It takes two to three times longer to build or upgrade a cell site than it does in a lot of other places.

It didn’t take long for AT&T to issue a statement to follow up on their CEO’s comments, so they reached out to BGR by email:

We noted that your post about LTE today didn’t note Ralph’s point that AT&T has a solid, modern technology with HSPA+, so we didn’t need to move as fast as Verizon with LTE. A bit more context for our network path can be found here… of course it includes LTE starting this summer with 5 cities (and additional 10 or more by the end of the year):

As AT&T builds out its LTE footprint, customers outside the LTE area will still have access to HSPA+, meaning consistently fast mobile broadband speeds.
AT&T’s HSPA+ network with expanded backhaul provides a great 4G experience with speeds up to four times faster than our already fast mobile broadband speeds. Also, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population is currently covered by AT&T’s HSPA+ radio network.
AT&T didn’t jump straight to LTE so that its customers would have a consistently fast mobile broadband experience. Customers of competitors who haven’t made the same upgrades as AT&T has will find that they’ll have fast speeds in LTE areas, but will see a steep drop-off in speeds when they leave LTE coverage zones. Plus, if they’re using voice and data simultaneously, one of those connections will drop off. AT&T’s customers will have a more consistent speed experience as they move between LTE and HSPA+ coverage areas

So there you have it, basically AT&T tells us that they will have HSPA+ running while they work on the real 4G LTE network. I just want them to stop using the term 4G for now and for the next two to three years.

via AllThingsD, BGR