ATT Wireless Announces 3G Upgrade, Plans for 4G Evolution

by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

American Telephone & Telegraph (ATT) announced last week that big advancements are on the way for its wireless service. By the end of the year, users will have stronger indoor coverage and download speeds twice as fast as what they currently experience.

“With the array of smartphones, laptops and emerging devices taking advantage of ATT’s 3G network today, we know that customers are excited to experience higher mobile broadband speeds, and we are deploying the right technologies at the right times to help them get the most from that experience,” said Ralph de la Vega, the President and CEO of ATT Mobility and Consumer Markets.

Currently, ATT uses a technology called High Speed Downlink Packet Access/Universal Mobile Telephone System (HSDPA/UMTS) with typical download speeds of 700-1.7 Mbit/seec. The upgrade will be to the similar, but more evolved, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 wireless technology. HSPA 7.2 has theoretical download speeds of 7.2 Mbits – or about 1 megabyte – per second. However, At&t admits that real world speeds will be significantly slower.

To increase the reach of its network and deliver stronger indoor service, the carrier also plans to nearly double the 850 MHz spectrum it has dedicated to high-speed wireless. 2,100 cell site connections will be added across the country to achieve this goal. Dropped calls and spotty service are chief complaints among At&t’s customer base. Stronger reception may improve the company’s reputation and lure more customers.

Even bigger plans are on the way for 2010 when ATT will begin testing LTE, or Long Term Evolution wireless technology. LTE is a contender for the 4G standard and is similar to WiMax. But LTE is less open, more proprietary and currently faster than WiMax — all of which has contributed to wider adoption among carriers. In a few years, some analysts believe LTE and WiMax could advance to compete with wired broadband. If that happens, it wouldn’t just be a wireless evolution, but rather a second wireless revolution and ATT could be poised at the front.

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