AT&T Leaps To HSPA, Promises LTE in 2011

So, what do you do when legions of iPhone users continue to suck down massive quantities of mobile data? If you're AT&T, you promise an even faster route to do so. This week, America's exclusive iPhone carrier has just announced that it will be upgrading its 3G network and readying it to deliver "considerably faster mobile broadband speeds." Starting later this year and continuing into 2011, the network upgrades -- which will integrate High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology -- will enable it to deliver even faster speeds to smartphones and LaptopConnect users.

In a rather impressive announcement, we're told that AT&T has attracted "more than twice the number of smartphone users than any other competitor," and that's despite that fact that it's not the largest operator in America, which is Verizon Wireless. On top of all this, AT&T is expected to begin LTE trials, which is the 4G technology that's largely expected to appear after HSPA, in 2010. Deployment of LTE is expected to begin in 2011, but we get the idea that said timeline is a bit on the ambitious side.

In addition to the planned speed upgrade, AT&T is said to be "enhancing its mobile broadband coverage by nearly doubling the wireless spectrum dedicated to 3G in most metropolitan areas to deliver stronger in-building reception and more overall network capacity." Honestly, we're thrilled to see AT&T reinvesting some of its income into bettering its network. In terms of WWAN speeds and availability, America is still far behind nations like Japan, and it's great to hear that a carrier is doing its best to broaden the availability of broadband away from the home.

The speed upgrade is one of several ongoing initiatives to expand and enhance AT&T’s mobile broadband service. Other key projects in 2009 include:

  • Near-Doubling Radio Frequency Capacity. In 2008 and 2009 to date, high-quality 850 MHz spectrum has been deployed in more than half of AT&T’s 3G network footprint to improve overall coverage and in-building reception, with additional markets planned for later in the year.
  • More Bandwidth to Cell Sites. We are adding fiber-optic connectivity and additional capacity to thousands of cell sites across the country this year, expanding the critical connections that deliver traffic from a cell site into the global IP backbone network. These upgrades will support the higher mobile broadband speeds enabled by both HSPA 7.2 and LTE.
  • More Cell Sites. Deployment of about 2,100 new cell sites across the country.
  • Wi-Fi Integration. Many AT&T smartphones will be able to switch seamlessly between 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone and 3G LaptopConnect plans have access to the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network – more than 20,000 hotspots, including locations in all 50 states – at no additional charge. AT&T’s global Wi-Fi footprint covers more than 90,000 hotspots, and AT&T also can create permanent or temporary extended Wi-Fi zones in areas with high 3G network use, like a grouping of hotels or a festival.
  • MicroCells. Customer trials leading toward general availability of AT&T 3G MicroCell offerings, which utilize femtocells to enhance in-building wireless coverage.

Tags:  iPhone, ATT, LTE, 3G, Network, 4G, Upgrade, HSPA