AT&T to Use 700MHz Spectrum for High-Speed 4G LTE Network

The mandatory period of silence for 700MHz auction participants is over, so AT&T is revealing what's up their sleeve for the prem-o slice of spectrum on a conference call. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said that it'll give them more flexibility and bandwidth to handle surging demand for mobile broadband now and later; better coverage (like in buildings, thanks to the spectrum's sweet properties); and an "easier path to 4G technology," that being LTE (which Verizon is also in on). They'll primarily be using 700MHz for their LTE network, and since it's GSM based, 4G devices will be able to work in 2G and 3G areas.

So, when's that awesomeness going to happen? Ralph says they "don't need the [new] spectrum tomorrow or even next year" because HSPA (their current 3G standard) has "a lot of headroom." They're going to roll out 4G "when the consumers demand it" (um, I want it now) and when the gear shows up to support it. Feb. 2009 is when the spectrum is clear for use, and beyond that "I think you'll begin to see commercial deployment in select locations." Good news: It's going to be cheaper per megabyte of data. Bad news: You won't really see widespread commercial deployment until 2012. But! They're planning on doubling their 3G speed to 7.2 Mbps downstream in the next year.

Won't comment on WiMax, which presumably, theoretically, maybe will be rolled out sooner than AT&T's 4G network.

He's kind of pooing on the C block which Verizon bought because it's stuck with open access rules—hampered with more regulations, etc. The C block chunk they bought from Aloha earlier wasn't subject to open access rules, and the B block slices they bought to fill in the gaps during the auction wasn't either. Om Malik asks if Ralph's referring to open access rules. Ralph replies that's "exactly correct." He also calls the regulations on the C block "excessive" which gives AT&T flexibility that "other" C block winner won't have.

A dude from the NY Times asks if the open rules kept them from bidding on the C block. Ralph says, "Our strategy in the auction was to complement the spectrum we had already acquired" from Aloha and "we accomplished exactly that." He dodges a follow-up trying to pin down whether they would've bid on the C block if there had been no rules placed on it.

On open access: "I think it's difficult to define what 'open access' is" but AT&T is all about choice, and their networks will be open for applications and development. "It's all about giving customers' choices." Reiterates that you can use any GSM handset "today" while some people are "just talking about it." *Makes dirty eyes at Verizon*

And we're done.