January 6, 2011

AT&T Adding More Smartphones In 2011

AT&T is planning to sell 20 new smartphones this year other than Apple's iPhone in order to lessen its dependence on its hottest selling device.

AT&T, which has been the exclusive U.S. provider for the iPhone since its debut in 2007, is expected to face tough competition early this year with Verizon Wireless. 

The mobile operator's executives said on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show that the 20-phone lineup will include devices from HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. and 12 running Google Android.

AT&T said it would also sell a tablet computer from Motorola.

Motorola said its Atrix 4G phone is expected to go on sale this quarter and will attach to a laptop so consumers can take advantage of the computer's bigger screen for Web browsing or viewing videos.

"It will change the way people work," AT&T's president and head of mobility, Ralph de la Vega, said in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the event.

De la Vega said that, after a "good fourth quarter" with a "seasonal pickup in demand," he sees 2011 being a strong year for smartphone sales, which he plans to boost with higher-speed network upgrades.

The number two U.S. mobile operator has been under fire for its patchy wireless service.

De la Vega vowed to speed up AT&T's plan for upgrading its network with 4G LTE, a high-speed technology already offered by Verizon.  AT&T's LTE launch is scheduled for the middle of 2011 with coverage for up to 75 million people by year's end. 

"Our customers will have blazing fast LTE speeds, and when they go off LTE, they will still have faster mobile broadband speeds with HSPA+ -- something our competitors will not be able to match," says de la Vega.

However, he said that AT&T plans to pick up the pace in 2012, with a goal of having its national 4G LTE high-speed upgrade largely complete by the end of 2013.  He also promised the first LTE phones in the second half of this year.

The company plans to start selling its first phones supporting another high-speed technology known as HSPA Plus, which it installed in its network last year to increase Web browsing speeds four-fold.

De la Vega said that phones based on this technology will arrive from Motorola and HTC in the first quarter and be followed by a high-speed phone from Samsung during the second quarter.

AT&T said HTC will supply its Inspire 4G smartphone and Samsung will provide its Infuse 4G smartphone.


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