U.S. Wireless Carriers Prepare For Faster Networks

If you've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of faster mobile broadband networks and gadgets, we have some good news for you. The next generation of high-speed Internet services and devices could arrive faster than initially expected. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are ramping up plans to speed up their networks and deliver more advanced devices as early as the end of this year, possibly in time for the holiday season.

Since there aren't a lot of new customers that are looking to get a cell phone, most wireless carriers are focusing on data services and other offerings for growth. AT&T plans to triple speeds for high speed home Internet services. The carrier also plans to double speeds on its wireless network. Verizon Wireless intends to have a slew of high-speed phones available earlier than the company has previously suggested.

At the Reuters Global Technology Summit, John Stankey, AT&T's operations chief, said AT&T plans to double the speeds of its wireless data services in markets covering more than 250 million people in the fourth quarter. To do this, AT&T will employ a technology known as HSPA Plus. AT&T also plans to roll out a residential broadband trial in June that will enable Web surfing at speeds of 80 mbps, which is much higher than the current limit of 24 mbps. Verizon Communications currently offers speeds of 50 mbps with its service. According to Stankey, if AT&T's tests are successful, commercial services could launch early next year.

In the meantime, Verizon Wireless is focusing its efforts on the company's upcoming LTE (Long Term Evolution) network, a 4G wireless network that promises increased speeds. The carrier plans to offer LTE to a potential customer base of 100 million people in 25 to 30 markets by the end of this year. Additionally, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam indicated the company has plans for multiple new devices in the fourth quarter. A portion of these new gadgets will include a selection of tablets designed to compete with Apple's iPad. Most of these tablets will run on Google's Android OS.

Verizon Wireless is also planning to offer up to five LTE handsets by next May, which is sooner than some analysts expected. Motorola, HTC, LG, and Research In Motion have been suggested as likely manufacturers of these handsets.

Although wireless carriers definitely have a strong focus on phones, they are also pushing technologies for computing on the go. Initially, AT&T's HSPA Plus upgrade will target laptop users who want faster mobile broadband services. Right now, it's unknown if manufacturers will offer HSPA Plus-compatible phones or if they'll focus their efforts on upcoming LTE handsets instead.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless aren't the only carriers with high-speed plans. Sprint is already offering 4G services based on WiMAX technology. In partnership with HTC, the wireless carrier will also be the first to offer a high-speed 4G wireless phone, the HTC EVO 4G which is scheduled to begin shipping on June 4.