AT&T Announces LTE Phones, Says 2/3 of Markets Have HSPA+

October 31, 2011

AT&T’s game of catch-up in the Long Term Evolution (LTE) networking game took a big leap forward today with the announcement of two LTE-capable smartphones for AT&T, Android-powered offerings from HTC and Samsung. AT&T also announced the addition of the next markets to get LTE service, a list that includes Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Athens, Ga.

Though the LTE advancements are welcome for a nation looking for more high-speed networking what may be more significant to AT&T customers is a claim that the company says it has now completed the software and backhaul improvements to support its HSPA+ flavor of 4G over two-thirds of its coverage area, meaning that AT&T no longer has to call out its 4G markets like it did earlier this summer. When you now go to the AT&T 4G coverage map the only “new” markets highlighted are the ones with LTE or about to get LTE; there is no longer any pop-up distinction for the 4G HSPA+ coverage, like the map had earlier this year.

Though AT&T still won’t publish a list of HSPA+-enabled markets — we are still asking company spokespeople to point us to one, if one exists — our guess is now that the LTE launch is finally underway AT&T doesn’t have to play its we’ll-call-anything-4G game anymore. We’d still like to see a coverage map with more honesty, however, with actual tower locations and expected coverage speeds. But we’re not holding our breath.

Verizon’s Second LTE Phone Now Available: Samsung Droid Charge is $299.99

May 14, 2011

Without any explanation for its two-week delay, Verizon on Saturday announced availability of the Samsung Droid Charge, the second smartphone for the company’s new 4G LTE wireless network. Priced at $299.99 with a 2-year contract the Droid Charge has charged to the top of the pricing tier of fast smartphones, $50 more expensive than the HTC ThunderBolt, Verizon’s first 4G phone.

Originally scheduled to launch on April 28, the Droid Charge’s debut was delayed without explanation when Verizon’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network suffered a one-day outage just before the phone was due. Verizon remained mum about the Droid Charge’s delay until Saturday, when marketing emails heralded the phone’s availability.

Like the ThunderBolt, the Droid Charge requires at least a $29.99 monthly data plan in addition to a required voice plan. Adding the phone’s capability to act as a mobile hotspot requires an additional $20 monthly fee, which covers the first 2 GB per month of shared data. Any data above that limit is billed at $20 per GB.

Verizon’s LTE Outage: What’s the Fallout?

April 29, 2011

Though according to Verizon the day-long service outage of its brand-new 4G LTE network is now fixed and to be forgotten, it remains to be seen what the full fallout is over the still-unexplained service interruption, which cut off Verizon 4G customers from their high-speed wireless data connection earlier this week.

Unlike other digital-service concerns like Amazon, which this week issued a very detailed public apology and explanation for its own service outage, Verizon has kept its corporate lips zipped pretty much shut over the LTE outage. Repeated queries to Verizon PR for some details on the outage only resulted in replies like this:

- Our 4G LTE network is up and running. Our network engineers and
vendors quickly identified the issue and solved it.
- Customers using the ThunderBolt have normal service.
- Laptop users with USB modems may need to re-connect to the
network when moving between 3G and 4G. This will continue to improve.

Granted, the LTE outage wasn’t on a business-catastrophe par with the Amazon breakdown — even though Verizon is claiming 565,000 active devices on its LTE network it’s doubtful that any big businesses are betting their entire communications infrastructure on those connections just yet — but the lack of transparency about the outage is hardly confidence-building. And despite several queries Verizon has yet to answer the question about if and when its next 4G smartphone, the Samsung Droid Charge, will launch since its previously scheduled arrival date of April 28 has apparently been pushed back indefinitely.

Another 4G LTE device that is also being delayed — in part due to what Motorola is calling LTE software problems — is the Motorola Droid Bionic, another of the LTE smartphones that Verizon was confidently showing way back at CES in January. Separately, none of these issues would be a very big deal. But with numerous device delays and an unexplained nationwide network crash, the question needs to be asked whether or not Verizon’s new fast network is really solid, or whether it’s still in a sort of beta mode with kinks left to be worked out. At least, that may be the questions users ask when deciding whether or not to sign up for 2-year contracts for a network that might not be there when you need it — and a provider that doesn’t tell you why afterwards.

UPDATE: Andy Abramson, a pro’s pro when it comes to public relations, also thinks Verizon needs to tell more about the outage. So does our old pal Wayne Rash over at eWeek.