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AT&T Inc. (T - Analyst Report) – the second largest telecom operator in the U.S. – plans to expand its LTE footprints by launching its lightning fast LTE services in Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Birmingham cities of the U.S. by the end of 2012.

Higher proliferation of smartphones and tablets coupled with increased HD-movie downloads is putting huge pressure on networks, resulting in slower network speed. Therefore, in a bid to boost its network speed and retain its customer base from other competitors like Verizon Communication Inc. (VZ - Analyst Report) and MetroPCS Communications, Inc. , the company is speeding up its LTE deployments across the U.S. region.

During the last ten months, AT&T has offered its LTE service in 47 markets in the U.S. covering nearly 275 million people. AT&T expects this deployment to reach to 80% of the U.S. population by next year. The popularity of LTE technology is gaining huge momentum in North America. During the last 12 months, North America gained 65.6 million new HSPA and LTE connections.

In order to support this growing LTE trend, the company is making fast progress in deploying the technology, supported by huge investment and the launch of huge array of LTE-based smartphones and tablets. Over the last five years, AT&T has invested more than $115 billion (inclusive of spectrum and other asset acquisition) on the service.

In the recently concluded quarter, AT&T reported huge customer addition of 1.3 million wireless customers totaling 105.2 million wireless subscribers compared to its close rival Verizon Wireless, which added 1.2 million wireless subscribers, totaling 94.2 million wireless subscribers. Consequently, AT&T is making fast progress in rolling out its LTE service to catch up with its close rival Verizon Wireless, which has already deployed its LTE technology in 371 markets in the U.S.

We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation for AT&TInc. Currently, AT&T Inc. has a Zacks#3 Rank, implying a short-term Hold rating on the stock.

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