AT&T says faster wireless coming by year's end

New HSPA 7.2 networking tech appears to double theoretical throughput

AT&T Inc. plans to upgrade to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 wireless networking technology later this year, offering faster network speeds to new compatible laptop cards and smartphones due to be released at the same time, the company said in a statement today.

The upgraded HSPA platform will deliver theoretical speeds of up to 7.2 Mbit/sec., though that maximum will be less for real-world users, depending on the devices they use, network traffic and other factors, AT&T said.

AT&T currently uses High Speed Downlink Packet Access/Universal Mobile Telephone System (HSDPA/UMTS) wireless technology, with typical download speeds of 700-1.7 Mbit/sec and typical upload speeds of 500 Kbit/sec to 1.2 Mbit/sec, according to information on AT&T's Web site. Current HSPA download speeds can theoretically reach 3.6 MBit/sec, according to AT&T executives who commented on the planned upgrade in April.

HSDPA/UMTS is in the same family of technologies as HSPA 7.2, GSM (Global System for Mobile) and LTE (Long Term Evolution). All are represented by the 3d Generation Partnership Project, a collaboration of equipment makers and carriers.

AT&T said the HSPA 7.2 upgrade will allow faster access over faster devices well in advance of the 2011-2012 timeframe, when LTE networks are expected to emerge. AT&T is planning trials of LTE in 2010, with deployments in 2011. LTE is also being adopted by many GSM carriers globally; In the U.S., it is also being adopted by Verizon Wireless.

AT&T today also said it is nearly doubling the wireless 850 MHz spectrum it has dedicated to high-speed wireless in most cities to deliver strong indoor reception. That move is coupled with the addition of 2,100 cell site connections.

AT&T did not comment on which laptop cards and smartphones will be compatible with HSPA 7.2 other than to say it will introduce "multiple" devices later this year.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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