What is a mobile provider to do when only 12 percent
of its customers own phones capable of taking advantage of data plans? Certainly having exclusive U.S. rights to arguably the most advanced--or at least the sexiest--smartphone is a good start. And the iPhone has been big a boost to AT&T's sales in 2007
. But by the close of 2007, AT&T only had 9 million subscribers to its 3G services. It would seem that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. But what if you make the water tastier? "AT&T's cellular Internet access will be more than five times faster in 2009 than it is this year, the company's mobility chief Ralph de la Vega said today at Morgan Stanley's annual Communications Conference. The executive says that the company's HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) network will be improved from the theoretical peak downloads of 3.6 megabits per second common across most of the network today to about 20 megabits per second in 2009."
De la Vega's new philosophy is: "The future is all about data.
The timing of the announcement is curiously close to the rumored imminent release of the 3G iPhone
. Current iPhone users lament that their data connections are not 3G. How better than to net new customers with the promise of even faster 3G on the heels of a true 3G iPhone?
De la Vega claims that the speed improvements can be accomplished largely via software upgrades and not any sizable changes to the existing physical network. "He adds that an interim HSPA upgrade to 7.2 megabits per second is already 'in the labs' and that the company's Option network cards are already capable of the 7.2Mbps speed.infrastructure.
" The data doesn't stop there, however, AT&T should be ready to roll out 100Mbps 4G in 2010."Both the improved 3G as well as 4G are considered essential by most experts for broadband-level services on cellular networks, including two-way video calling, permanent video downloads, and real-time online apps such as multiplayer games. De la Vega acknowledged that AT&T would have to shift its emphasis from traditional calls to Internet features in the process."
AT&T truly got the Golden Ticket
when it landed the exclusive rights to be the U.S. wireless carrier for the iPhone. By enticing more customers with faster data rates, it can remain competitive with other U.S. carriers, such as Verizon, which plans to launch its own 4G network in 2009.