ATandT Completes HSPA 7.2 Upgrade, LTE 4G Coming

AT&T has completed a software upgrade to HSPA 7.2 across its 3G network, the carrier announced Jan. 5 - the same day that T-Mobile announced its HSPA 7.2 upgrade. The next step for AT&T is increasing high-speed backhaul connections and firing up LTE.

AT&T announced on Jan. 5 that it has completed upgrades to HSPA 7.2 software across its 3G network. The move to HSPA 7.2 positions the carrier for an eventual move to LTE, or 4G technology.

AT&T is now working on increasing the number of high-speed backhaul connections to its cell sites, an initiative that, in combination with HSPA 7.2, will potentially be able to support theoretical peak maximum speeds of 7.2M bps. As the backhaul connections are completed, AT&T customers with 7.2-capable devices-there are 10 currently in the AT&T lineup, including the iPhone 3G S-can expect to experience faster speeds.

The backhaul initiative is currently under way in Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles; and Miami, and the carrier anticipates that the majority of its mobile data traffic will be carried over the expanded fiber-based, HSPA 7.2-capable backhaul by the end of 2010, with deployments continuing into 2011.

"We are focused on providing our customers with the industry's best combination of mobile broadband speed, performance, coverage and available devices," said John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T Operations, in a statement.

"As we light up new backhaul connections across the country, we're able to deliver a meaningful 3G speed boost for millions of customers who are already using HSPA 7.2-compatible devices," Stankey continued. "At the same time, we're also looking to the future with these backhaul enhancements, which will support our move to next-generation LTE technology starting in 2011."

AT&T plans to trial LTE this year, and to begin deploying the technology in 2011.

"Even as we look forward to LTE, 3G will be the predominant mobile broadband network technology worldwide for smartphones for the next few years," said Stankey. "AT&T's strategy will deliver faster 3G speeds over the next two years, while also allowing us to build the foundation for the LTE future."

On Jan. 5, T-Mobile announced that it, too, had completed an upgrade to HSPA 7.2 across its 3G network, and that it plans to be the first to launch HSPA+, a 3.5G technology that can reportedly offer speeds competitive with some early tests of LTE and WiMax.

AT&T competitor Verizon Wireless plans to launch 30 LTE networks in 2010, while working up to nationwide coverage in 2013. And on Dec. 14, Ericsson and carrier TeliaSonera launched the world's first LTE network, in Stockholm, Sweden. According to TeliaSonera, speeds are such that customers can now enjoy streaming HD video on the go.

AT&T's investments in its wireless network was a raised topic during its recent disputes with Verizon Wireless over a series of Verizon ads, and became relevant again when AT&T told the Federal Communications Commission, in a Dec. 21 correspondence, that it would like to phase out its landline business to focus its assets on developing its broadband and IP-based communications business.

In the Jan. 5 statement, AT&T stated that in 2008 through the third quarter of 2009, it invested $19 billion toward its wireless initiatives, and that its 3G national call reliability is 98.91 percent, meaning that only 1.08 percent of its nationwide calls are dropped.