Merger or not, AT&T's plan all along has been to start taking LTE markets live starting this year with a broader rollout nationwide over the next couple years. To that end, the company has just announced the first five markets that'll be available to customers; not a huge first round, but we're not talking about small cities, either: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Three of the markets are in AT&T's home state of Texas, one represents AT&T Mobility's headquarters, and the other -- Chicago -- is an AT&T corporate stronghold by way of Ameritech, which was later acquired by SBC, which ultimately morphed into the AT&T we know today.

In a blog post today, CTO John Donovan is echoing a theme first used back at the company's developer summit at CES in January, saying that 20 "4G" devices will be added to AT&T's product portfolio this year, though he's not mentioning what percentage of those will actually run LTE -- some, likely most, will top out with HSPA or HSPA+. Typically, new wireless networks are offered first with modems before adding handsets into the mix, and I'd expect that's AT&T's plan here as well: the first five markets will probably have access to one or more USB sticks out of the gate (in fact, there's already a modem in its current lineup that's software-upgradeable to LTE) followed by phones and mobile hotspots within a few months.

Not in any of those five cities? Donovan says they'll have 10 "or more" additional markets live by the end of the year bringing total coverage to roughly 70 million people, though there's no word yet on what those markets will be.