Had Apple yesterday unveiled an LTE-based iPhone 5, AT&T would have been in significant marketing trouble given AT&T only offers LTE service in five markets
-- with just fifteen markets up and running until the end of the year. Compare that to Verizon, who would have had an advertising field day contrasting that deployment to their on-schedule plan to offer LTE in 175 markets by the end of the year
You might recall AT&T didn't respond well the last time Verizon highlighted their lack of broadband coverage. In 2009 Verizon's "there's a map for that" ad campaign highlighted how most AT&T users were still chugging along on slower EDGE networks, which provide speeds of 200 kbps under optimal conditions.
AT&T ultimately sued Verizon
, only drawing attention to the fact their network had more than a few holes. AT&T also responded with a series of somewhat underwhelming ads featuring actor Luke Wilson
, highlighting how AT&T users are the only ones able to talk and browse at the same time (something that remains true).
Instead of a renewed LTE version of their ugly 2009 battle with Verizon, AT&T gets the CDMA/GSM iPhone 4S
, which dodges the issue by avoiding real next-gen connectivity altogether. While the 4S doesn't support LTE, it will offer the fastest speeds on the AT&T network -- since the updated device now supports 14.4Mbps HSPA, leaving Sprint and Verizon iPhone 4S users stuck on slower EVDO networks. Still, that 14.4 Mbps is a theoretical maximum, and if your current regional AT&T connectivity is underwhelming, that's likely not going to change with the upgrade.
However, AT&T's not out of the woods quite yet; AT&T's LTE build is now racing against the launch of the LTE iPhone 5, which could happen sooner rather than later. Verizon is slated to have their entire EVDO footprint upgraded to LTE by the end of 2014, while AT&T is expected to be at least one year behind.