AT&T Plans Network Upgrade to Delivery Faster 3G Mobile Broadband Speeds

AT&T has announced plans to upgrade its 3G network to deliver even faster 3G mobile broadband speeds.

It plans to upgrade its network to HSPA 7.2 3G wireless technology topping out at 7.2 Mbps, double the current speed of 3.6 Mbps. The network upgrades are expected to start later this year and expected to be completed by 2011.

AT&T has also announced that it will start LTE trials in 2010 and begin deployment in 2011.

We had heard rumors that AT&T was in the process of upgrading its 3G wireless network from the current 3.6 Mbps download standard to 7.2 Mbps in anticipation of spike in network traffic from Apple's new iPhone.

But based on today’s announcement it looks like even though Apple’s next generation iPhone might support the new 7.2 Mbps "3.5G" standard as we had heard yesterday, users will have to wait for AT&T to rollout the network upgrade.

AT&T has also provided details of the initiative that they will be taking up to expand and enhance AT&T’s mobile broadband service.

  • Near-Doubling Radio Frequency Capacity. In 2008 and 2009 to date, high-quality 850 MHz spectrum has been deployed in more than half of AT&T’s 3G network footprint to improve overall coverage and in-building reception, with additional markets planned for later in the year.
  • More Bandwidth to Cell Sites. We are adding fiber-optic connectivity and additional capacity to thousands of cell sites across the country this year, expanding the critical connections that deliver traffic from a cell site into the global IP backbone network. These upgrades will support the higher mobile broadband speeds enabled by both HSPA 7.2 and LTE.
  • More Cell Sites. Deployment of about 2,100 new cell sites across the country.
  • Wi-Fi Integration. Many AT&T smartphones will be able to switch seamlessly between 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone and 3G LaptopConnect plans have access to the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network – more than 20,000 hotspots, including locations in all 50 states – at no additional charge. AT&T’s global Wi-Fi footprint covers more than 90,000 hotspots, and AT&T also can create permanent or temporary extended Wi-Fi zones in areas with high 3G network use, like a grouping of hotels or a festival.
  • MicroCells. Customer trials leading toward general availability of AT&T 3G MicroCell offerings, which utilize femtocells to enhance in-building wireless coverage.

One of the biggest complaints from AT&T's iPhone users is poor network coverage. It’s good to see AT&T taking steps to address the problem. A faster and improved AT&T network will definitely be good news for existing and new iPhone customers.

The other interesting tidbit from today’s announcement was AT&T fast tracking its LTE (Long Term Evolution) rollout plans.  It plans to start LTE trials in 2010 and begin deployment in 2011 instead of 2012.

Om Malik of GigaOM Network believes that the reason for the change in plans could be because of news that Apple is in talks with Verizon, who are expected to start rolling out fourth-generation LTE networks in 2010.

What do you think about AT&T’s announcement? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

[via AT&T]