AT&T's New Data Plans

AT&T Expands 4G LTE Network to 11 New Cities

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For many wireless users, Verizon's LTE service is no longer the only game in town. AT&T announced earlier today at an investor conference that it has launched 4G LTE mobile data service in 11 new cities, bringing its total LTE footprint up to 26 markets and 74 million customers, the carrier says.

The new cities are the New York City metro area, Austin, Chapel Hill, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.

The service was already available in Athens, Ga.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington, D.C.

AT&T has been marketing its 3G (HSPA+) service as "4G" but the new LTE (Long Term Evolution) service is the real deal. 4G LTE service delivers throughput speeds of up to ten times faster than 3G service.

When an LTE subscriber moves out of an LTE coverage area, AT&T says, their device will automatically downshift to the slower 3G service. Verizon's LTE service works the same way, with it's subscribers downshifting to 3G CDMA service. AT&T says this LTE/HSPA+ combination is better than Verizon's LTE/CDMA offering because Verizon has not continued upgrading its 3G service as aggressively as AT&T has. "Customers of other carriers that have transitioned to 4G LTE without further speed upgrades to their existing networks are likely to see a jarring drop-off in speeds when they move out of LTE coverage," AT&T says in a release today.

PCWorld's early 2011 wireless speed tests seem to bear this out: Verizon's CDMA data service actually slowed by roughly 7 percent on average in our 13 testing cities compared to its speeds in our early 2010 tests.

AT&T customers who want the LTE service will need a new device. AT&T now sells a number of LTE-capable devices, including the HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and LG Nitro HD smartphones and HTC Jetstream and Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablets.

AT&T says its 4G LTE deployment will be "largely complete" by the end of 2013.

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