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AT&T to activate faster 4G network on Sunday

Mark Milian, CNN
U.S. cellular giant AT&T Mobility is upgrading its wireless data network.
U.S. cellular giant AT&T Mobility is upgrading its wireless data network.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • AT&T plans to launch a 4G LTE data network on Sunday
  • The network will launch in three Texas cities and two others
  • Service will be faster than the current network AT&T calls 4G

(CNN) -- AT&T Mobility is saddling up for the initial launch of its faster fourth-generation data services.

The 4G LTE network is set to debut on Sunday, said John Stephens, AT&T's financial chief, at a conference on Thursday.

AT&T said earlier that the network will debut in five cities, reaching 70 million people. The launch cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas.

AT&T began selling two gadgets last month that were designed to connect to its 4G LTE network. Cellular carriers don't typically release products tailored to networks that aren't yet accessible to customers.

AT&T announced last month that access to 4G LTE service using wireless cards for computers would cost $50 for five gigabytes per month. AT&T has not detailed prices for smartphone data or announced when those phones would launch.

Verizon Wireless launched its own 4G LTE on a Sunday in December covering 38 cities or 110 million people, the company said then. Verizon released the first phone capable of connecting to that network a couple of months later, and prices are comparable to 3G smartphones.

Each of the four major carriers has been marketing its data services as 4G. Sprint Nextel's WiMax 4G is usually slower than LTE connections. AT&T and T-Mobile USA, which are looking to merge their businesses, describe their current technologies as 4G, though they are not LTE.

AT&T has said its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile would improve cell service and allow the expanded operator to expand 4G LTE service into more rural areas.

Verizon, which is AT&T's closest competitor, was the first to deploy LTE, and AT&T will be the second. Ralph de la Vega, the CEO of AT&T's mobile unit, said in June that AT&T's 4G would catch up to Verizon's in two or three years.

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