AT&T Steps on the 4G Gas, Lines Up Android Phones, Tablets

Jan. 5.11 | About: AT&T Inc. (T)

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said Wednesday that it will step up its Long-Term Evolution investment and roll out 4G services in the middle of the year. Meanwhile, AT&T (NYSE:T) diversified its smartphone lineup and touted new 4G Android devices from Motorola (MOT), HTC and Samsung (OTC:SSNLF).

Company executives said that it is looking to keep its device lead in smartphones and offer faster speeds. AT&T’s Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher said it will offer a Motorola’s Honeycomb Android tablet in the second quarter running off its current network. LTE tablets will follow in the summer.

AT&T executives referred to 4G devices running off its HSPA+ for the first six months of the year followed by an LTE transition that will go through 2013 (statement). AT&T CTO John Donovan said that its plan to offer HSPA+ and LTE will lead to better hand-offs between services. Donovan also mocked “competitors” that are creating networks that can’t manage 4G handoffs.

“AT&T is the only U.S. company committed to both HSPA+ and LTE technologies,” said de la Vega.

The smartphone news played out about as expected. In a nutshell:

  • AT&T will launch 20 4G devices this year. A dozen Android devices are on tap in 2011.
  • Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha showed off the Atrix 4G. Jha called it “the world’s most powerful smartphone.” The Atrix has a dock that allows for desktop Web browsing.
  • HTC CEO Peter Chou also showed off the Inspire 4G, which has the next generation Sense exclusive to AT&T. The Inspire features HTML5 support, a 4.3 inch display and Android 2.2.
  • Samsung also talked about devices that will offer bigger screens, 4G speeds and high resolution cameras. J.K. Shin, president and head of Samsung Mobile Communications, said its Infuse 4G would offer the largest and thinnest screen.

The news, which was delivered at the AT&T Developer Summit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, highlights key strategic moves for AT&T and handset makers. To wit:

  • AT&T is lining up with HTC and Motorola to show it can deliver results when it loses iPhone exclusivity. AT&T is also responding to a 4G happy CES and wants to show it can be a contender on LTE.
  • Motorola Mobility is in a similar position and needs to diversify. Jha has been aligned with Verizon for the last year, but will see his company battle for shelf space with the iPhone.
  • HTC wants to be the go-to 4G handset provider and cover all the carrier bases.
  • Samsung is looking to grab more of the Android pie.

A few images.