With the quiet flip of a switch, AT&T de Puerto Rico this week became the first commercial wireless carrier on the island, and in the Latin American region, to launch a next-generation Long-Term Evolution network that is already offering blazing fast speeds.
On Monday, News is my Business broke the story that AT&T would be including Puerto Rico among the first 15 markets where it would make 4G LTE available, something José Juan Dávila, general manager of the local operation, said is a testament to the island’s importance.
“Absolutely. Puerto Rico remains an important market for the company, because of the high levels of voice and data usage. The company also responds to customer demands and LTE was something they were asking for,” Dávila told News is my Business, following a news conference held Wednesday to provide further details on the news that came down from headquarters earlier this week.
“To our satisfaction, Puerto Rico was on the roadmap. We’ll be launching LTE in the San Juan metropolitan area, which extends from Carolina to Bayamón and down to Cupey,” he said. “We will continue turning on cell sites in that cluster to make sure that we increase coverage there.”
The company is serving about one-third of the island’s population in that cluster, he said, refraining from confirming which geographical area will go live next, or how soon that may happen, citing competitive reasons.
“We have a very aggressive plan in place to continue switching on areas, and as soon as we do, we will announce them,” he added.
Dávila noted 4G LTE would allow AT&T — Puerto Rico’s largest wireless carrier — to “do everything we want to do with our network. We want our customers in Puerto Rico to have the best and AT&T isn’t holding back to make sure they have the best experience.”
Among other things, 4G LTE technology offers lower latency, or the processing time it takes to move data through a network, such as how long it takes to start downloading a webpage or file once you’ve sent the request. Lower latency helps to improve services like mobile gaming, two-way video calling and telemedicine.
Launching 4G LTE and introducing devices that can stand up to the network and deliver the promised speeds has entailed an investment of $55 million during the first six months of this year, Dávila said.
The figure will likely jump by another $20 million by year’s end, as AT&T has been averaging an investment of $75 million in local infrastructure every year for the past three years, a sum that has covered the deployment of its HSPA+ network.
“By providing two platforms, when customers leave an LTE area, they will still be on HSPA+, so they won’t feel an abrupt speed change,” he said. “I think we should feel very proud of the amount of money AT&T is investing in Puerto Rico. We’re here investing and creating infrastructure and economic development.”
Along with the network upgrade, AT&T announced a handful of new devices, including smartphones and tablet computers that will run on the LTE network. The lineup includes: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, available beginning Nov. 20; the HTC Vivid; the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket; the HTC Jetstream tablet computer; the AT&T USBConnect Momentum 4G; the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G; and the AT&T USBConnect Adrenaline.