AT&T is continuing to warm up to Google’s Android open wireless phone software, even though AT&T membership in the Open Handset Alliance may not be imminent, Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility said in a chat this morning. But he declined to comment on increasingly insistent, and specific, rumors that a 3G version of the iPhone would be released in early summer. “Ask Steve Jobs,” he said.
Expanding on his comments at the CTIA Wireless show last week, De la Vega says he likes Android, but remains dubious about OHA: “As for the Open Handset Alliance, it’s not clear to me if that’s something that will continue to run or whether can just get the Android source [code] without having to be a member of OHA. So far, I like the progress they have made.” De la Vega say we may see at least a few Android handsets hit the market later this year, but hinted that any AT&T offerings would be later.
AT&T clearly is not expecting a rapid return from the $6.6 billion it is committed to pay for 700 MHz spectrum won at the recent FCC auction or from complementary spectrum purchased for more than $2.5 billion from Aloha Partners. "Participation in the auction and the acquisition of Aloha were long term moves to improve spectrum," de la Vega says. "What see down the road is the ability to launch LTE." (Long-Term Evolution, a high-speed fourth-generation wireless standard). But, he added, "LTE is still a technology that is not even fully standardized. It's a very long term move."
But customers of the more bars in more places network shouldn't despair, because AT&T plans significant upgrades of its existing 3G High Speed Packet Access network. "We can continue to improve efficiencies for next several years," de la Vega said. "We don’t have to hurry into LTE. HSPA now at 3.6 megabits per second and we expect 7.2 by early next year. 14.4 and even 28 as move to 64QAM and MIMO technology. We have two or three revisions of that infrastructure. We have an awful lot of headroom."
Another much wished-for development, at least from frequent travelers, would be cheaper international data roaming. "We have a major effort to get roaming costs down and usage up," de la Vega said. "We have been engaged in negotiations, telling international roaming partners we should lower our costs. There's still a lot of work to do. We have the broadest coverage of any carrier in the world with over 200 carriers as roaming partners and our size and scale gives us influence. We need to figure this one out."