AT&T bets $8 billion that it will gain market share from 4G rivals

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AT&T (NYSE: T) is hoping to gain market share from its U.S. 4G competitors Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), and T-Mobile with an $8 billion wireless infrastructure investment announced this week.

With the investment, AT&T predicts that its 4G LTE network expansion will cover 300 million users by the end of 2014. This will amount to over 99 percent of wireline customer locations in its 22 state wireline areas.

As part of the investment, AT&T plans to deploy small cell technology, macro cells and additional distributed antenna systems to increase the density of its wireless network, which is expected to improve network quality and increase spectrum efficiency.

In preparation of this 4G expansion, AT&T has acquired wireless spectrum through more than 40 spectrum deals this year and has plans to buy additional wireless spectrum to support its 4G LTE network. The company gained much of the additional spectrum when the Federal Communications Commission approved the carrier's use of wireless communications service spectrum for mobile broadband.

Between what the company already owns and transactions pending regulatory approval, AT&T expects to have about 118 Mhz of spectrum nationwide. The carrier said it would continue to push the FCC for release of additional spectrum.

In addition to the wireless expansion, AT&T plans to invest $6 billion in its wireless infrastructure. This will include investment in its wired IP broadband network, which will be expanded to 75 percent of customer locations in AT&T's 22-state wireline service area by the end of 2015.

"This is a major commitment to invest in 21st Century communications infrastructure for the United States and bring high-speed Internet connectivity--4G LTE mobile and wireline IP broadband--to millions more Americans," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and chief executive officer. "We have the opportunity to improve AT&T's revenue growth and cost structure for years to come, and create substantial value for shareowners."

AT&T is making a charge to become the leader in the 4G wireless services arena, but its rivals will not sit still. So expect some major 4G investment announcements coming in the near future.

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