AT&T announced plans to upgrade the nation’s fastest 3G network to deliver faster mobile broadband speeds. The network upgrades are slated to begin later this year, with completion expected in 2011.
The upgrade to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology is part of AT&T’s plan for continued investments to deliver the nation’s best mobile broadband experience – the ideal combination of speed, coverage and best device line-up.
With its network built on the 3G UMTS technology, AT&T can boost the speed of its mobile broadband network and offer a wide variety of devices to take advantage of it well in advance of 2011-2012, when most industry observers expect 4G LTE networks and device availability to scale. AT&T plans to begin LTE trials in 2010, with deployment beginning in 2011.
In addition to the planned speed upgrade, AT&T is 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. Also, AT&T is adding thousands of new cell site backhaul connections to support the higher mobile broadband speeds enabled by HSPA 7.2 and LTE. The upgraded network platform could allow for theoretical peak speeds of 7.2Mbps.
AT&T’s 3G mobile broadband network is now available in nearly 350 U.S. major metropolitan areas, with about 20 additional metro areas planned for deployment in 2009. The HSPA 7.2 technology will be deployed widely in the network, with the benefits of the network upgrade to be announced on a local basis as the faster speeds are turned up. AT&T will introduce multiple HSPA 7.2-compatible laptop cards and smartphones beginning later this year.
Other key projects in 2009 include: near-doubling radio frequency capacity, more bandwidth to cell sites, more cell sites, and Wi-Fi integration. Capital investment for these projects fits within AT&T’s previously outlined expectation of total capital expenditures for 2009, targeted toward the $17 billion to $18 billion range.
HSPA 7.2 is part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of technologies, which include GSM and UMTS. Emerging LTE technology is also part of the 3GPP technology roadmap, enabling AT&T’s network to offer backward compatibility, or the ability for users with qualifying devices to seamlessly switch among 4G LTE, 3G and 2G service areas to maintain the fastest-available connection. This availability will be critical for customers in the early years of LTE deployment across the industry, when access to LTE service will be geographically limited.