AT&T plans 20 Mbs HSPA+ network upgrade in 2009
Ralph de la Vega, the mobility chief of AT&T, spoke at the Morgan Stanley’s annual Communications Conference today, announcing the company’s plans to make their 3G network support download speeds five times faster than the current ones by year 2009. We’re talking about 20 mbps wireless broadband here!
According to the executive, the company already has a test version of HSPA 3G network running in their labs which is able to deliver download speeds of up to 7.2 mbps. The current network of AT&T can theoretically provide half of that, and it seems that it will soon get an upgrade.
The promised “exceeding 20 megabits per second” speed is another matter though; the current HSPA standard only supports download speeds up to 14.4 mbps (and even that’s in theory), so the company will switch to HSPA+ (also known as HSPA Evolution), a 3G mobile data protocol defined in 3GPP release 7 and capable of providing data rates up to 42 mbps on the downlink and 22 mbps on the uplink. Now tell me that’s not impressive!
Despite the large increase in speed, de la Vega explained that the upgrade won’t require major hardware modifications of their cell towers, and will instead be achieved mostly by means of upgrading the software on already existing electronics.
He also outlined the company’s roadmap up to year 2010, when AT&T plans to offer 700MHz 4G access based on LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard to their customers, again increasing download speeds fivefold and reaching the 100 mbps mark.
The steps to get there are very logical and they’re all building on the same GSM technology that we’ve been using for a while. LTE will allow for backwards compatibility to GSM and HSPA, which is a great benefit to customers. And our path forward to LTE allows us to get there step-by-step, with interim steps that will deliver more and more speeds everyday.
So, what are their competitors doing? Verizon plans to launch their own LTE-based 4G network, and what’s more, to do that before AT&T. Sprint on the other hand teamed up with Clearwire in an attempt to build a nationwide WiMAX network. For those interested, WiMAX offers 70 mbps download AND upload in theory, although the actual speeds are usually much lower like it’s often the case with wireless broadband.
Quoting Mr. de la Vega again, “It’s clear to us that we are in the very early stages of what I would call a wireless data revolution”.