Hang tight, Verizon: Chicago is one of five launch markets for AT&T's new LTE network, with a total of fifteen or so expected by the end of 2011. The carrier has been selling its new Momentum 4G and Elevate 4G data devices for a little over a week now, promising HSPA+ speeds initially with LTE compatibility once the network lights up -- and for those of us in Chicago, pockets of AT&T LTE are just now starting to appear.
I grabbed an Elevate 4G this evening to try it out; the representative told me that the store's demo unit had been switching between HSPA and LTE intermittently throughout the day, so it's still hit or miss. In my neighborhood, I found that I was able to just barely hang onto a connection -- the hotspot shows one bar of signal strength -- which was good enough to average between 6 and 7Mbps downlink and 1 to 2Mbps on the uplink. Clearly, that's no better than a decent HSPA+ connection, but I'm certain I was on LTE -- I had the Elevate set to LTE-only mode, and the display clearly showed a "4G LTE" indicator.
But is the lack of blazing speeds a reason for AT&T users to panic? Hopefully not -- the network isn't ready for public consumption, we're just riding on the coattails of some test signals at this point. And again, it's important to remember that I never saw more than a single bar of reception in my neighborhood (I'm hoping that'll improve by launch). BGR's tipster saw speeds as high as 13Mbps down, so that's encouraging -- and it's much closer to being in line with what I see on Verizon LTE around here (12 to 20Mbps, typically).
There's no word yet on when these first LTE markets of AT&T's might officially go live, but in the meantime, it'll be fun for Momentum and Elevate owners to play around on the soft launched airwaves with essentially no congestion whatsoever. Follow the break for a quick video of my Elevate in action.