Posts tagged LTE

AT&T 4G LTE in Tucson, AZ – Coming Before End of 2012

It has been what seems like an eternity since I wrote a bit about Verizon 4G LTE coming to Tucson, AZ. Since then, the network has been deployed and working just fine, and made it into my mental take-it-for-granted state. Since then, Cricket has lit up their own LTE network on AWS (1700/2100 MHz), and next up is AT&T who just recently announced details about their LTE deployment for a bunch of markets before the end of this calendar year. I wrote about the AT&T LTE news at a high level at AnandTech, and the announcement comes a not-so-coincidentally timed week before the next iPhone announcement in an attempt to prevent lots and lots of LTE related churn.

I’m burying the lead a bit, but before the end of 2012 AT&T will have LTE finally lit up in my part of the world. There’s a relevant press release here which is relatively light on detail – there’s no outline for what parts of town will get LTE, whether it will include surrounding areas, or any further detail. I guess we can only hope that they mean the greater metro area. I’ve asked a few of my sources for a better timeline, but can only say that before December LTE should be lit up.

I hope it goes without saying, but LTE (3GPP Long Term Evolution) is completely different from the earlier announcements AT&T made about “4G” coming to Tucson in May 2011. That was really just deployment of HSPA+ with up to 16QAM on the downlink (HSDPA 14.4) and some additional WCDMA carriers for capacity reasons. I’m pretty pleased with the state of AT&T WCDMA in town, I see around 2-3 carriers on PCS (1900 MHz) around town and what I consider very good peak speeds.

AT&T Spectrum Holdings in Pima County (As of Sept. 7 2012)

Since AT&T LTE doesn’t use the same channel bandwidth everywhere, it’s worth noting that in this particular market (Pima County), AT&T can run 10 MHz FDD-LTE on Band 17, (Lower 700 MHz B+C blocks) and 5 MHz FDD-LTE on AWS (1700/2100) when the time arises. I haven’t seen AT&T enable any LTE on AWS quite yet, this is likely coming at some future date after the rollout is closer to completion or as a way to mitigate loading in the future.

Verizon 4G LTE Coverage Profile In Tucson Arizona

A while back, Verizon announced more detail about their plans to bring 4G LTE to the Tucson area. I’ve been paying hyper-close attention to each carrier’s 4G rollout plans in my area, primarily out of personal interest, secondarily because that means when phones launch I won’t have to keep driving to Phoenix to test them. The actual press release is here, if you want to read it. If you want the actual nugget of new information, however, just read this:

The 4G LTE network will extend through Tucson between Interstate 10 and Harrison Road, north to Sunrise Drive and south to Valencia Road, including the Tucson International Airport.

That’s a bit curious actually, since the four thoroughfares specified don’t completely bound a region. Sunrise doesn’t extend all the way to Harrison, and Valencia is a bit discontinuous as well. Further, Interstate 10 bounds the bottom and left side of the box. I spent some time figuring out what that actually looks like, and created a google maps/earth .kmz overlay image, and image.

There’s a bit of interpolation going on here, namely assuming that Ina will bound the north part after Sunrise disappears, and that the jump from Sunrise to Harrison takes place like shown. It gives a decent impression of what the initial profile will be like, however.

A few things immediately stand out. First, there’s a bit of the east side that is genuinely clipped off. Second, south tucson between I-19 and I-10 doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s definitely a part of “Tucson,” yet the bounded region that Verizon stipulates would seem to preclude coverage making it down there. But perhaps the most head-scratchingly surreal part of the box is the fact that coverage will only extend to Sunrise.

Beyond and around the Sunrise/Skyline line is the foothills. This is the region where it makes the most sense to deploy 4G LTE due to the kind of neighborhood it is. Extending only to Skyline (and not even a little beyond) seems like a completely missed opportunity. It’ll be interesting to see the actual coverage profile and when things start rolling out. As of right now, I can confirm that there isn’t 4G LTE anywhere in town – I’ve tested at the airport, downtown, U of A, and throughout town with the HTC Thunderbolt, Pantech UML290, Samsung hotspot, and another unreleased datacard thus far to no avail. Hopefully it comes soon. Verizon has 22 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum (upper c block) in most of Arizona including Phoenix and Tucson. Only the far west part of Arizona has 34 MHz.

Update: 

Today Verizon Wireless announced that the Tucson, AZ market will be included in the August 18 nationwide LTE rollout. Last week I heard from a good friend of mine with a Droid Charge that LTE was working in various parts of Tucson already, no doubt as Verizon tests individual eNodeBs for functionality.

Update 2: 

At around 10:30 PM on August 17, Verizon 4G LTE went live in Tucson. Some people on Twitter sent me notifications about them seeing the service light up in areas that were even outside the circle painted by earlier press releases, so if you’re reasonably close to the boundary outlined in the press release, there’s a good chance LTE is active in your area.

One person tweeted a link to some speedtests, which show that things are indeed working:

Currently I don’t have any 4G LTE devices, but when I get another one for testing we’ll have a better picture of coverage and speeds in this market.

Update 3: 

It’s live, and it’s fast! I’ve tested it thoroughly and published some results already in the context of the Droid Bionic review, which is only a UE Category 2 device. Soon as I get a UE Category 3 LTE device I will run some more tests and get a better picture.