AT&T accelerates 4G plans, 20 4G phones planned this year

Feeling the heat from Verizon and that company's expanding 4G rollout, AT&T said Tuesday at CES that would accelerate its LTE plans, planning to have the network complete by 2013. In addition, the company plans to start preparing customers by releasing 20 4G-capable phones during 2011.

The carrier would also move up the launch of LTE overall -- expecting to enable the higher speeds by the middle of this year. Until now, AT&T had been rather vague in its plans for LTE's launch, but it is likely Verizon's high-profile 4G push has given AT&T impetus to catch up to its biggest rival.

"Recent tax law incentives, along with other policy developments, have allowed us to accelerate the capital investment -- beginning in 2011 -- to largely complete our LTE network build by the end of 2013," chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. "This will not only benefit our customers, but will, we hope, benefit the economy as a whole."

While 4G speeds with LTE technology will likely not be available to the company's entire network for many years to come, the company did say it had completed its HSPA+ rollout to nearly all its cell sites and claims 4G-equivalent speeds could be attained through network improvements.

Five to seven 4G-capable devices will launch during the first half of the year, with two of those being smart phones that would debut in the first quarter. About 20 devices would launch this year alone, the company said.

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