AT&T upgrades 3G network with high speed packet access

San Francisco, Calif. At&T has announced plans to upgrade its 3G mobile broadband network with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology. The carrier also confirmed that it would continue to add “critical” backhaul capacity to cell sites.

“AT&T plans to begin deployment of HSPA 7.2 in six major U.S. cities, including Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami, with initial service availability expected in these markets by the end of the year,” the company explained in an official statement. “All told, [AT&T will] deploy HSPA 7.2 in 25 of the nation’s 30 largest markets by the end of 2010, and reach about 90 percent of its existing 3G network footprint with HSPA 7.2 by the end of 2011.”

According to AT&T, the upgraded network platform is expected to support theoretical peak speeds of 7.2Mbps. However, the carrier conceded that typical real-world downlink and uplink speeds experienced by customers with upgraded 3G would be “less than the theoretical peak” and could vary based on a number of factors, such as location, device and overall traffic on the local wireless network.

AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey noted that deployment of HSPA 7.2 would be accompanied by “substantial” additional wireless backhaul, along with the availability of six compatible smartphones, devices and two LaptopConnect cards.

“With HSPA 7.2, we’re making the nation’s fastest 3G network even faster, and we’ll be able to deploy this technology before LTE networks, devices and equipment grow to scale,” said Stankey.

“Even as we look forward to LTE, we know that 3G will be the predominant mobile broadband network technology worldwide for smartphones for the next few years. AT&T’s strategy will deliver faster 3G speeds, while also allowing us to build the foundation for the 4G future.”

He added that AT&T was currently working on a number of additional projects, including:

  • An initiative to substantially expand the wireless spectrum with 850 MHz.  
  • The addition of approximately 2,000 new cell sites in 2009.
  • Facilitating widespread access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi network.
  • Preparations for field trials of 4G LTE wireless networks in 2010, with deployment planned in 2011.