AT&T Touts Slimmer LTE Phones

AT&T Touts Slimmer LTE Phones

AT&T says its new 4G LTE smartphones are thinner and more efficient than Verizon’s, boasting a new technology that may help AT&T compete against Verizon’s much bigger LTE network.

Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T’s wireless and consumer unit, told CNET the new phones will launch in the fourth quarter. The phones were slightly delayed because the technology was still being developed, but de la Vega said, “We think it’s worth the wait.”

The phones use a circuit-switch fallback, or CSFB, which allows them to run on a 4G network, flipping back to 3G when they are out of an LTE coverage area. De la Vega did not say which manufacturers are making the technology

Verizon’s 4G LTE phones use separate 4G and 3G devices, which each requires its own power source and necessitates a larger handset body. The larger phones have received criticism because they are also power-hungry.

De la Vega said AT&T is the first company to offer next-generation smartphones with CSFB technology, giving AT&T an advantage over its rivals.

AT&T’s 4G success may not depend entirely on slimmer phones, though. Verizon’s phones may be bigger, but so is its 4G network. AT&T has service in five cities, but Verizon’s service is expected to reach more than 175 cities by next month.

AT&T may also need to add more devices to pull customers away from Verizon, which has five 4G LTE smartphones available and more coming. On the other hand, AT&T’s current roster of 4G devices is still limited to a USB card, wireless mobile hotspot and a tablet.

Verizon insists its fast 4G LTE work gives the company an advantage over AT&T and other competitors. The provider is a year ahead of other cellular companies in deploying 4G LTE and has far more devices available, with plans to unveil more.

De la Vega, however, said AT&T’s delays are necessary to bring customers a more useful product, rather than relying on a fast rollout to attract subscribers.

Verizon isn’t AT&T’s only worry when it comes to 4G service. Sprint, which already has a higher-speed network in place, could make great strides through a partnership with LightSquared, if federal regulators approve the satellite company’s plans to extend LTE networks.

T-Mobile also recently upgraded its own 4G network, and its pending merger with AT&T may add T-Mobile’s 4G network and spectrum to AT&T’s holdings.

AT&T will likely officially announce more cities and devices as extends its own 4G network, but may need more than just slimmer phones to lure customers away from other cellular providers in the LTE race.

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