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AT&T to launch its LTE network in 5 cities this summer

First cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; Ten more will follow later in the year

AT&T said it will activate its LTE (Long-Term Evolution) wireless network this summer in five cities, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

The company will roll out the mobile broadband network in 10 more cities by the end of the year, AT&T CTO John Donovan said in a statement.

In addition, AT&T will have some LTE devices -- presumably smartphones , tablets and USB aircards -- added to its portfolio in 2011, Donovan said. He didn't say how many will be on LTE, but said there will be 20 4G devices added this year.

AT&T counts both LTE and HSPA+ as a 4G network, as do other carriers, although the definition of 4G varies widely. Most experts agree that LTE is a 4G (or Fourth Generation) network. Generally, LTE speeds in the U.S. have been less than 10 Mbps for both uplink and downlink. AT&T hasn't said what download and upload speeds users will get from its network.

Verizon Wireless has LTE in dozens of cities, which it launched last fall, and said its downloads speeds reach 12 Mbps while uploads reach 5 Mbps.

HSPA+ can theoretically provide 21Mbps downlink speeds on an uncrowded network.

AT&T said it has invested $75 billion in its wired and wireless networks in the last four years, with plans to invest $19 billion in 2011.

AT&T has moved slower than Verizon on LTE partly because it is a newer technology that requires more lab testing , according to several AT&T executives.

Verizon experienced a two-day outage of its LTE network in April although it has never explained what happened.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

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