Today AT&T announced that it will begin upgrading its HSDPA/HSUPA-based 3G network to HSPA. If those acronyms don't mean anything to you, don't worry. The bottom line is this: theoretical maximum mobile download speeds will increase from 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps.When it comes to acronym alphabet soup, almost nothing compares to wireless technology. Today, AT&T's 3G network uses High-Speed Download Packet Access and High-Speed Upload Packet Access technology that is capable of reaching 3.6Mbps downloads on properly equipped devices. (Real-world speeds are close to 1.8Mbps.) Starting later this year, AT&T will take its 3G network to the next level by upgrading to High-Speed Packet Access technology, which will effectively double download speeds to 7.2Mbps.
This is good news.
Aside from the speed increase, however, AT&T has pledged a number of other improvements to its 3G network. They include:
As far as devices are concerned, AT&T says that it will introduce laptop cards and smartphones that are capable of hitting 7.2Mbps later this year.
Last up, AT&T also said that it will begin trialing Long Term Evolution in 2010, and it expects to begin rolling out LTE in 2011, pretty much as soon as the HSPA upgrades are complete.
What's missing are plans to upgrade to HSPA+, which is a step in between HSPA and LTE. HSPA+ will increase speeds even more. I spoke with AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega several months ago, and he said at the time that AT&T will likely skip upgrading its network to 14.4Mbps and jump right from 7.2Mbps to 21Mbps. Today's announcement didn't provide any more information on when that might be.