AT&T (T) will spread its 4G LTE network into a large number of U.S. cities this year, a move that puts it into direct competition with Sprint-Nextel's (S) Wimax 4G product and LTE technology deployed by Verizon Wireless (VZ)(VOD). "The next network evolution will arrive this summer with the addition of LTE in five markets – Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio. We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end," the telecom company announced.

AT&T will need to press into all of those markets by the close of 2011. Sprint and Verizon Wireless already offer super-fast wireless broadband in large cities such as New York. Each already sells several 4G-enabled devices, most powered by the Google (GOOG) Android OS.

AT&T says it will spend $19 billion on its wireless and wired networks and infrastructure this year. But the portion of that which is going into 4G is a riskier investment than it might at first appear, because there's some question about whether 4G will take off. Will most consumers really want faster wireless broadband, especially if they have to pay a premium for it over 3G service? Many may find that 3G speeds, which allow for video-content viewing and social network applications already, are fast enough. And converting to 4G requires the purchase of a new handset -- a cost many wireless subscribers may not be interested in paying.

Another critical issue for 4G is how well it will work. AT&T's 3G networks have been overwhelmed by data traffic associated with Apple (AAPL) iPhones. Early adopters of 4G may like the higher speeds, but there's no guarantee that these networks won't also rapidly see customer demand for bandwidth exceed supply. AT&T could spend money to increase the carrying capacity of its troubled 3G network as an alternative.

The wild card in 4G's evolution is Apple. Current versions of the iPhone are not 4G compatible, and Apple has not signaled any plans to make a 4G device. The popularity of Apple's devices have been a key driver to the adoption of smartphones in the past: If the firm decides to take a wait-and-see approach on 4G, the growth of the service will be held back because the popular iPhone is not part of the product mix AT&T can offer its 4G customers.

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When I bought my iphone, I didn't want to switch to at&t, although now that I use them I give them credit for the rollover minutes ... thats great and I have a ton of daytime minutes carried over now.

June 06 2011 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

AT& will have to come with a $500 unlimited everything plan with no contract to compete. There is no reason to want to go to AT&T at this point and if they do take Tmobile thats a provider that is going to be ruined. AT&T has nothing to offer. bad networks, bad phones, horrible plans and they are the cell phone nazis.

May 31 2011 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

$19,000,000,000.00 on this ... $39,000,000,000.00 on the T-Mobile deal ... But they can't pay their own customer service reps anything better than 1980's hourly rates ? ... and of course what ever the going rate is "over there" on what is still being overseas outsourced.

It's time for the FCC and Congress to wake up and man up here. Cellphone service has had a free ride with little to no regulation ... long enough. Rates should be connected more closely to cost ... service quality and the lack of it should come with penalties just like wireline used to. They just sit there and do nothing ... no I take that back ... they continue to approve the redivesture of the industry. What the government spent years and millions of tax dollars to break up, they are now allowing to come back together.

May 31 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

can't even hear most of the time on this new phones, i miss western electric their phones worked good, bring back western electric they paid good too.

May 31 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If At&T does do something really big, I wish it would be dropping that freaking 2 year contract!!!!!! my phone is held by tape but I can,t get a new one!!!! Been a customer of theirs for so long I can,t remember, but they really don't care. typical

May 31 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Who was the stupid Judge that split ATT up? We wouldnt have all these Carriers now. ATT use to be the backbone of American communications!

May 31 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ie41969's comment
Dale + Cathy = L

I participated in the ATT break up from the technical side. I helped build the first Sprint network starting in 1975. Sears & Roebuck had tried to break into the telecom business, but AT&T ate them alive, literaly. Southern Pacific Railroad already had a vast private telephone system and know how that ran from New Orleans to San Francisco: Houston to St. Louis and SanFrancisco to virtualy Chicago, just to give the basic layout. Digital technology was in its infancy still, because Integrated Circuitry was still in its infancy. Integrated Circuitry is still growing, as you know, and along with it comes our beloved digital technology. The Southern Pacific venture cost them big time and the company, they started, floundered for the longest. By the way, SPRINT stands for Southern Pacific RR Industrial Telecom! Let me shorten this up, OK?
Because SPRINT was sucessfull in the courts, and for good reason, we have the vast fiber optic network that makes 3G and 4G service possible. AT&T is a late commer in having a real fiber optic network. Now what AT&T was forced into doing for pioneers like Sprint and MCI, these newbees are being forced to do for AT&T and what was a backbone, now has ribs, arms and legs. In otherwords, It is all working together.
Cell phones are only the fingers and toes of this great beast. And let's not forget, Cellphones are only soupped up walky talkies at best.

May 31 2011 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Guess your not much into business and nationwide financial dependency studies. If a company becomes to big or to integrated into our entire infulstructure then fails it collapses the entire country. Its very basic. You have to have built in fault zones so the entire thing doesnt crash the entire country should it happen to fail. It protects the entire country.

May 31 2011 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ATT&T has no idea that we are tired of being screwed over and over yet pay dearly 3G now suffers as they place more resources and work on 4G network I may as well use two tin cans and waxed string. I have been with ATT&T since 1997 BUT no longer will renew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 31 2011 at 3:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to G H's comment
Dale + Cathy = L

Grahame Harte,
I agree. 3G is good enough for mobil service to most people. I expect 4G to flop, untill more people start carying larger displaying devices.

May 31 2011 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Live in orlando. Have been with AT&T for many, many years with zero compliants.

May 31 2011 at 2:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crislerpi's comment

I've had a few times when my iphone couldn't get service in Florida, and I never had that issue with Sprint. But I'm ok with overlooking that as long as its rare.

June 06 2011 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A very satisfied VERIZON Wireless customer here. Customer support is fantastic. Of course over the last 8 years, I have had a few bad experiences with customer service both on the phone and in stores. Overall..Im satisfied. They are wonderful about going the extra mile when my kids were deployed. They turned off the kid's cells without any charges...when they came home on Leave for two weeks, Verizon turned them on without charge and turned them back off when they went back. I was not charged ANYTHING for these services. When there is a problem with a bill or I need tech support, Verizon almost always takes care of the problem the first time. I might pay slightly more for the service compared to some of the other carriers but I am happy where I am so Im not going anywhere!

May 31 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i like the Verizon phones so much better than any other. My droid kicks the I phone's butt, love my droid incredible. awesome phone.

May 31 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rltballer's comment

Actually I know someone with a droid that told me he's switching to an iphone just because his battery life is really bad on the droid ...

June 06 2011 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply