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AT&T has a lot of catching up to do with its LTE 4G network, especially since Verizon has a major head start after launching its LTE network last December. But the first official details about AT&T’s LTE launch don’t inspire much hope.

The company announced today that it will be launching its LTE 4G network in just five cities sometime “this summer.” Launch markets include Dallas, Houston (AT&T is based in Dallas), Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio. AT&T plans to add another ten cities by the end of the year to reach 70 million Americans.

In comparison, Verizon launched its LTE network in 38 markets last December, serving a total of 110 million people. Yes, Verizon had a wider LTE rollout at launch in late 2010 than AT&T will by the end of 2011. Verizon expects to have nationwide LTE coverage by the end of 2013.

AT&T says that it will have 20 4G devices by the end of the year, but only some of those will have LTE (and even fewer will be phones). The rest will run on its older HSPA+ network.

At least AT&T looks to be competitive with LTE when it comes to speed. A recent demonstration by AT&T technicians showed LTE speeds that were faster than Verizon’s, although we’ve yet to see AT&T’s speeds in the wild.

To be fair, it’s far more pressing for Verizon to deliver LTE to its customers than AT&T. Verizon’s CDMA 3G network is widely known to be slower (but more reliable) than AT&T’s 3G network. Verizon also doesn’t have a stop-gap technology like HSPA+ — which is much faster than typical 3G and is marketed by both AT&T and T-Mobile as 4G — to rely on.

We’ll be exploring the most disruptive mobile trends at our fourth annual MobileBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the rise of 4G and how it delivers the promise of true mobile computing. We’re also accepting entries for our mobile startup competition at the show. MobileBeat is co-located with our GamesBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors can message us at sponsors@venturebeat.com.

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