By KIM POINDEXTER
TAHLEQUAH — firstname.lastname@example.org
Most AT&T wireless customers in Tahlequah have been enjoying high-speed access for a couple of years now, but over the past week, many have reported the letters “LTE” popping up intermittently on their phone screens after the “4G.”
Despite the screen display, AT&T’s LTE service is not yet available in Tahlequah. But as the company continues to roll out the expansion of its IP broadband network to 75 percent of locations in a 22-state service area, customers may get a taste of lightning-fast things to come.
Craig Cromley, AT&T area manager for external affairs, said 4G LTE service is already available in Oklahoma’s metro areas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and is also online in cities like Muskogee and Enid. AT&T’s current projections indicate Tahlequah customers should officially be on the bandwagon by the end of 2015.
“This is incredibly fast – the fastest there is,” Cromley said of LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution. “By the end of 2015, 99 percent of the population will be reached in the 22-state area, which includes Oklahoma.”
Cromley said that because of high demand, the larger markets are being brought online first.
“And Tulsa was already on board with LTE even before AT&T launched its VIP project,” he said.
Late last year, AT&T announced plans to invest $14 billion over a three-year period for enhancement of its wireless and wireline IP broadband networks. Project Velocity IP (VIP) was designed to address customer demand for high-speed Internet access, as well as new cloud, mobile and app services.
At the time, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said revenue in the corporation’s wireless data, U-verse and strategic business services were growing at a double-digit rate, and that Project VIP would open the door to those services for many more customers. AT&T expects 250 million customers to have 4G LTE access by the end of this year, and 300 million by the end of 2014.
The first publicly available LTE service was launched in Scandinavia in late 2009, with Verizon Wireless unveiling the first major network in North America in 2010. Using a radio interface paired with core network enhancement, LTE ramps up the speed and capacity of wireless data networks through digital signal processing techniques and modulations introduced around 2000. The technology decreases the processing time for data moving through a network, so webpages will download more quickly, and mobile gaming and two-way video calling will be much faster.
“For our local customers, it will mean increased speeds on their LTE wireless devices, whether that be a phone, netbook or iPad. But they’ll have to have an LTE device to take advantage of it,” he said.
“If a device is just 4G capable, rather than 4G LTE, it will instead access the HSPA network.”
Cromley explained the LTE network runs up to 10 times faster than the old 3G network. HSPA+ – commonly called 4G by consumers – falls somewhere between the two.
Though Verizon Wireless was the first major company out of the 4G LTE gate, Tahlequah customers don’t have any more bragging rights than their AT&T peers when it comes to this new technology.
As of June 2013, Verizon had introduced 4G LTE in 500 markets across the U.S. The company website did not indicate when Tahlequah customers might have LTE access. Oklahoma cities currently with LTE include Bartlesville, Altus, Ardmore, Durant, Lawton/Duncan, Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Ponca City, Stillwater/Cushing and Tulsa.