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AT&T Set to Deploy 14+ Mbps HSPA Speeds In 3rd Quarter of 2009

AT&T has been internally testing HSPA and HSPA+ cellular network speeds in their labs. Currently reaching peaks of up to 7.2 Mbps, it is being reported that these speeds may possibly double before AT&T officially rolls out the wireless enhancements.

preWe know that AT&T has been testing wireless speeds both in their internal labs, and in some areas of Chicago for some time now. What we don’t know is exactly which technologies are being used in these network tests. AT&T’s 3G cellular network (which the iPhone runs on), has typical download speeds of 700 Kbps—1.7 Mbps, and typical upload speeds of 500 Kbps—1.2 Mbps. As you can see, a jump from 1.7 Mbps all the way up to the tested 7.2 Mbps, or even the rumored 20.0+ Mbps speeds would be substantial.

Since Apple and AT&T first launched the iPhone 3G, both companies have been slapped with various lawsuits surrounding the instability of the AT&T network, coupled with poor performance from the actual device when running on the network. While it may seem like they do, AT&T does not plan on remaining stagnant with their network while continuing to defend 3G speeds. They intend on utilizing current technology they have been developing and testing (upgrading their current HSPA networks to HSPA+) to enhance their network speeds before making the full plunge into 4G, which we expect sometime prior to 2011.

“In response to accelerated next-generation rollout schedules by Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility spokesman Mark Siegel said the carrier has plenty of room for upgrades before making the switch to LTE (4G Wireless networks). “We have some real advantages with our (GSM-based) technology path,” Siegel said. “We still have plenty of room left to increase speeds” before moving to LTE (4G),” a report at RCRWireless explains.

AT&T, like Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are building out their future 4G networks with “LTE Technology” (Long Term Evolution) at their core. LTE is the next step in a natural progression into future mobile networks. It allows for the most compatibility between networks and interoperability between devices, as well as being backwards compatible with current technologies like GSM and HSPA. Various testing under different scenarios has already delivered speeds of up to 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink. It’s important to note that these speeds are being delivered under extremely controlled environmental testing and not real-life scenarios where the results would likely vary greatly.

Perhaps most interesting for Apple watchers and iPhone enthusiasts, is what may happen with the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone when it’s released. If Apple waits for these AT&T network upgrades before unveiling a new device, then end users may see dramatic increases in performance. After publicly confirming the development of iPhone tethering back in November 2008, AT&T mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega has said that AT&T will indeed be deploying network speeds of up to 20Mbps “sometime in 2009.”

Unfortunately, the “sometime in 2009″ most likely means around late September based on what we’ve been hearing. This leaves Apple’s iPhone up in the air when it comes to certain bandwidth hogging features like iPhone tethering (using your iPhone as a wireless modem) and video conferencing. This doesn’t mean that video conferencing couldn’t be made available over Wi-fi first, but tethering, as is available for Blackberry owners today, would have no reason to be unveiled without these enhancements to AT&T’s networks being rolled out first. This leads us to believe that iPhone tethering won’t be coming for quite some time, most likely towards the end of 2009.

If the iPhone gets some attention around June of this year, per the regular refresh cycle, the hardware should be ready and willing to support future AT&T network enhancements. Perhaps any iPhone announcements being readied by Apple will be made later in the year after AT&T unveils the enhanced speeds, or maybe AT&T will have these network upgrades ready sooner than the “end of the summer” time-frame we keep hearing. Either way, any reports of AT&T working on increased network speeds and stability should be taken with warm reception. The sooner the industry, and AT&T especially, can move away from current 3G networks, the better for the mobile market as a whole.

Comments [5]

5 Comments to “AT&T Set to Deploy 14+ Mbps HSPA Speeds In 3rd Quarter of 2009”

kris @ February 2nd, 2009 at 4:02 pm
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I could only dream of mobile speeds such as these.


ulysses @ February 2nd, 2009 at 5:03 pm
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It makes sense for either of the two companies to wait before releasing one of the major features. Not surprising.


Matthew Maurice @ February 2nd, 2009 at 10:38 pm
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Call me “whelmed.” I’ll believe speeds like those when I see [anything CLOSE] to them. If an EV-DO iPhone came out, I’d write AT&T a check for the ETF in a heartbeat.


Christina Sciubba @ February 3rd, 2009 at 3:06 pm
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I just hope that this means they will push their monthly fee back to $10 from $30….


miked @ February 23rd, 2009 at 9:22 am
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Why don’t you talk about the “real” speeds. I have never seen 1 Mbps.