December 14, 2012 11:35:34 AM
Wireless customers of AT&T in Starkville might have noticed their network working a little faster Thursday.
Those customers can get used to it too, at least inside the city. AT&T is now offering its Long Term Evolution network, or LTE -- the wireless company's fourth generation network.
It operates with data speeds up to six times faster than their third generation network, said Sue Sperry, state public relations manager for AT&T.
The company also launched its LTE network in Hattiesburg today and Pascagoula earlier this month. AT&T is the last of the big three carriers in the region to turn on their LTE network in Starkville, with Verizon and C-Spire preceding them. Verizon launched its LTE network in Columbus in March.
Sperry called the network "blazing fast," saying the timeline for offering it was dictated by infrastructure improvements AT&T wanted to complete before launch.
"We wanted to bridge the gap between 3G and LTE with what we call our initial 4G network," Sperry said. "Because of the data speed difference, we wanted to make sure that if you were on LTE and then went through a rural area and dropped to 3G, that your calls wouldn't be dropped and your data session wouldn't be interrupted."
A focus on beefing up technology for individual cell towers was a key component in AT&T's process. Sperry said so far, in test runs, the transition between 3G and LTE and back has been "smooth as silk," with no capacity issues.
"Before you decorate your house, you have to fix the foundation," she said. "We didn't do any releases or announcements on it, because these upgrades were really done cell tower by cell tower."
With Christmas around the bend, and the launch of the new LTE network, AT&T expects to see an increase in purchases of LTE-capable smart phones over the next few weeks and months. Sperry said at least a dozen new smart phones with LTE-specific capabilities are now available to AT&T customers.
AT&T will continue to expand its LTE network in the state, Sperry said, and they are in the process of bringing Columbus on board.
"LTE is on and working beautifully," Sperry said. "Very, very robust."