Jan. 5, 2011 at 1:45 PM ET
AT&T president Ralph de la Vega Wednesday said the wireless carrier will speed up deployment of its faster 4G network, building out that network by the end of 2013, and has completed improvements to its current 3G network to make it even faster.
"We're confident that our network plan will deliver a faster, more consistent" network "for our customers, and an experience that our competitors will not be able to match," said de la Vega at AT&T's developer's summit during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
AT&T also decided to extend the "4G" label to include its intermediate HSPA+ technology, a high-speed upgrade to its existing network that is currently rolling out. This is controversial: While T-Mobile also calls this "4G," and its speeds can rival other 4G-labeled technology, from a technical standpoint it is still "3G" tech. (You have every right to be confused about this, and that is the greatest tragedy of all of this labeling nonsense.)
The company is about to lose its exclusive hold in the U.S. on Apple's iPhone within weeks, with its chief rival Verizon Wireless expected to offer the iPhone soon. De la Vega made no mention of the iPhone in his opening remarks, but pointedly said that the carrier is the "clear leader when it comes to offering a variety of handsets and choices" in devices and mobile operating systems, including Android, Windows and RIM's BlackBerry.
Google's Android operating system has taken the smart phone world by storm, of course, and among the new phones introduced Wednesday were those featuring the OS (but only version 2.2, not the more current Android 2.3 as offered on the new Google Nexus S).
AT&T also said it will have its first 4G tablet, from Motorola, this summer that will "ride" on the carrier's HSPA+ network. The tablet, believed to be the same one shown recently by Google's Andy Rubin, has a 10.1-inch screen and will run on Android 3.0, dubbed "Honeycomb," and considered to be the version best suited for tablets.
Among the 4G, or fourth generation, phones introduced Wednesday were the Motorola Atrix, HTC Inspire and the Samsung Infuse. They will be available the first quarter of this year.
"We have a killer portfolio planned, with 20 4G devices this year," David Christopher, AT&T's chief marketing officer told the crowd of hundreds of attendees. "In the first quarter, we have the three devices we discussed, and in the second half, we will start adding LTE devices to our lineup." LTE is what both Verizon and AT&T are using for their 4G technology, and Verizon already has started offering 4G data services in some places.