AT&T Has a Christmas Present for Customers (And Investors)

The battle for market share among wireless carriers develops this week as AT&T (NYSE:T) rolls out 11 new long-term evolution markets in the United States, bringing the telecom services provider up to a new total of 120 markets.

The LTE Landscape:

The timing here is no coincidence. AT&T’s rollout this week brings its total to 17 new markets for the month of December, a 16.5 percent increase in market coverage right before Christmas shoppers decide what carrier to use for their new iPhone 5.

LTE is quickly doing to 3G what Fios did to DSL. One is fast, sure, but the other is faster, and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) has a finger in both pies. Verizon Communications has a long-running advertising campaign that boasts its industry-leading LTE network that spans over 440 cities. In the wireless game, bigger is pretty much better, implying better service in more locations. And for America’s data-hungry smartphone culture, faster is better.

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While the numbers look pretty one-sided (440 markets for Verizon, 120 for AT&T), the answer to the question of “what company has the bigger market” is not that straight forward.

AT&T’s LTE build out has been complimented by its development of Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+), which effectively enhances 3G networks and grants speed comparable to 4G. Including this enhanced backhaul in its definition of 4G network, AT&T claims 3,000 more cities and towns than Verizon…

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