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David Zax

A View from David Zax

AT&T's 4G LTE Comes to NYC

It may not have a pretty name, but it’s fast.

  • December 14, 2011

To a Brooklyn-based technology journalist, it’s a most delicious alphabet soup: NYC’s AT&T LTE 4G.

New York will be getting the faster network service this month, the company recently announced. (I spotted the news via VentureBeat, via the Washington Post.) By the end of the year, some 70 million people will have LTE service under AT&T, per the company. (Verizon, meanwhile, has 160 million people covered.) For anyone to have LTE 4G at all is a fairly recent development for AT&T customers; it launched in five cities–Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, and Atlanta–in September. As of a few days ago, it went live in San Francisco; then it flickered on in LA.

Everything 4G LTE-related is, for the time being, unfortunately pricey. HTC and AT&T’s LTE-enabled tablet launched with a price of $700. AT&T plans to charge $50 per month for 5GB of LTE data; each additional GB will run another 10 bucks. Verizon’s LTE smartphones are among the most expensive in their lineup, too, says VentureBeat.

Why is 4G LTE exciting, from any provider? Well, because it’s faster. AT&T actually has a pretty good breakdown of 4G-related questions. My favorite might be this post, largely for its title: “More Than One Acronym for Speed.” Other FAQ’s include: “What is 4G?” “What is HSPA+?” “What is LTE?” And the biggest tongue-twister of all: “What types of speeds should I see on 4G LTE/HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul?”

Spit out the alphabet soup: it all comes down to speed. Though she heavily caveats her post in which she test-drives AT&T’s 4G LTE in San Francisco, CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt is tentatively impressed, saying “the speeds look promising at their fastest, mostly sticking to the 14 or 15Mbps range for downloads, with spikes into the 30Mbps range and a rock-bottom outlier of just 0.75Mbps.” She had better results with a LG Nitro HD than she did with an HTC Vivid. Still, she concluded, “signs point to LTE as a significantly faster 4G service in San Francisco–at least in areas where signal is unobstructed and strong.” For some users, at some times, at least, downloads will be twice as fast as what they’re used to.

As a gadget-dependent New Yorker currently tethered to 3G, that’s music to my ears.

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