Doug on IP Comm – An independent voice on VoIP, telecom, and IP Communication

AT&T outlines 3G upgrades, LTE path

Posted on: May 27, 2009

On Wednesday, AT&T announced how it plans to upgrade its 3G network to deliver faster speeds, including LTE trials in 2010 and deployments starting in 2011.

HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) 7.2 technology is the central part of today’s upgrade announcement, and will give a speed boost to AT&T’s favorite child, the iPhone.  In theory, HSPA 7.2 will deliver up to 7.2 Mbps, but there are a lot of issues in the real world which will knock that back to something less on a typical day for a typical user.

Better than EVDO Rev A or B? Interesting questions, since Rev A can burst up to 3.1 Mbps.  Rev B can do 4.9 Mbps per carrier and use multiple channels for speeds up to 14.7 Mbps, but Verizon is going straight to LTE and Sprint has WiMAX to promote.

AT&T will also be doubling the spectrum dedicated to 3G in most cities to provide both stronger in-building reception and more overall capacity, adding new backhaul connections to support higher data rates for HSPA 7.2 and LTE; yes, fiber and additional capacity to “thousands” of cell sites across the country this year.   It is also adding a whopping 2,100 new cell cites around the country.

Capital investments fit into AT&T’s previously stated capital spending this year, around $17 billion to $18 billion.

If you want to read between the lines, AT&T is playing catchup with Verizon’s planned investment in LTE and backhaul.  AT&T has been publicly flogged by Om Malik for having a sub-standard network, but the carrier isn’t doing this to make him and the rest of the blog-o-sphere happy.

Verizon has a robust network and a long-term technology vision that it has articulated to Wall Street.  Analysts weren’t keen on FiOS, but since it is now making money, they are paying closer attention when it comes to early deployment of LTE in the U.S.

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