AT&T just announced the LTE-enabled USBConnect Momentum 4G and Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G are coming this summer, which means a national rollout of the network can't be far behind.
With these mobile broadband devices, those in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio (where LTE is already live) can soon take advantage of home broadband-like speeds on non-4G devices like laptops. When out of range or where the LTE network isn't available yet, the devices automatically switch to HSPA+ and even 3G to keep users connected.
The USBConnect Momentum 4G plugs (pictured right) into the USB port on any computer to connect it to AT&T's 4G (HSPA+ or LTE) and 3G (EDGE/GPRS) networks. It has a MicroSD card slot that can expand your device's storage up to 32 GB, and is GPS-enabled so your device's built-in GPS should be compatible with the USB modem. At 2.6" in length, just over an inch wide, half an inch thick and weighing just over an ounce, the USB stick is smaller than a pack of gum, and therefore easy to toss into your gear bag. It supports Mac OS(v10.5 or later) and Microsoft Windows (7, Vista and XP SP3 32 bit only). It also comes preloaded with AT&T Communication Manager to keep you in the loop on how much data you have left on your plan.
The Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G (pictured left), on the other hand, links up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices to the LTE network (or the HSPA+ and 3G when necessary). It comes with a 1.7" color LCD screen through which you can add devices to the hotspot, monitor the signal strengths, data usage and even battery status. Like the USB modem, the Mi-Fi hub also has a MicroSD slot for up to a 32 GB card and is GPS-capable. It's approximately the size of a iPod touch though much thicker at 0.7", but still portable at 3.6 ounces. The hub itself is powered by an internal battery that is good for up to five hours and supports the following OSes: Windows (7, Visata, XP), Mac OS (v10.5 or later) and Ubuntu Linux 9.04.
While the LTE devices will launch with a $50 mail-in rebate -- $50 for the the Momentum 4G USB modem and $70 for the Elevate 4G Mi-Fi hub after rebate -- these prices are only available for those who sign up for a 2-year contract for mobile broadband service. It will cost $50 per month to use the USB modem for 5 GB of data; the Mi-Fi hub will cost $35 for 3 GB or $50 for 5 GB. AT&T's pricing is similar to Verizon's, which starts at $50 for 5 GB for both the USB modem and Mi-Fi hub and goes up to $80 for 10 GB.
AT&T clearly needs to catch up to Verizon on the LTE front, and the release of the Momentum 4G and the Elevate 4G will be an important step for AT&T to take -- even if it's a step behind its competition. Consumers, though, really need better pricing for their 4G devices, and the only way that will happen is through real competition between the carriers.