AT&T Puerto Rico beats local competitor in race to launch LTE

17 Nov 2011

US cellular giant AT&T has revealed that it will launch commercial 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband services in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, on 20 November. The rollout news came as part of an announcement that AT&T would be extending its LTE network to six new markets this month, including the island, which is part of the commonwealth of the US. A range of LTE-enabled devices including handsets will be on offer to Puerto Rican subscribers, as AT&T introduced its second 4G-capable tablet computer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, this week, bringing the LTE device total to 24, including LTE-capable smartphones released earlier this month.

The arrival of AT&T’s LTE services looks to have beaten the attempt by Puerto Rico’s smallest cellular network operator Open Mobile to be the first on the island to launch the 4G technology commercially. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Open Mobile is already actively deploying its LTE network in partnership with Sweden’s Ericsson, aiming to launch services in metropolitan zones by the end of 2011, and to cover ‘all areas’ by mid-2012, offering 4G devices including tablets, USB modems and mobile phones. However, if launch plans run to schedule, AT&T Puerto Rico stands to steal Open Mobile’s thunder and claim the title of first commercial LTE network in the Latin America and Caribbean region. AT&T’s high speed mobile data coverage is being augmented under a project to build out its 3.5G HSPA+ network to 90% of the island’s population by the end of 2011, whilst Open Mobile is evolving to LTE from a CDMA2000-based network, including 3.5G EV-DO Rev A technology, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database.

TeleGeography notes that Claro Puerto Rico, a subsidiary of Mexico’s America Movil, is expected to be the third to launch LTE on the island early next year, although it has not yet committed to a firm timeline. Sprint’s LTE rollout in the US is expected to encompass Puerto Rico later in 2012.

Alongside its San Juan launch AT&T plans to switch on 4G services in Charlotte (North Carolina), Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City, bringing its LTE coverage to 15 markets, having previously launched in Athens (Georgia), Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Washington DC. The company aims to cover 70 million American citizens with its LTE network by the end of 2011.