Saturday 25 April 2009

AT&T to do HSPA+ enhancement before adopting LTE

Before AT&T implements LTE, it plans another HSPA upgrade that will bring 3G capacity up to 7.2 Mb/s, says Telephony Magazine, using software enhancements to squeeze one last boost in bandwidth from its current high-speed packet access (HSPA) network. That will boost speeds from 3.6 megabits per second to 7.2 Mb/s, said Scott McElroy, AT&T Mobility vice president of technology.

In March AT&T announced plans to invest between US$17 billion and US$18 billion this year to, “extend and enhance wireless and wired broadband networks to provide more coverage, speed and capacity.”

AT&T currently has the enhanced networks running in two test markets but plans to extend those capabilities to its entire network, according to Telephony. Later this year, AT&T plans to start migrating its 3G networks to evolved-HSPA (or HSPA+), which would triple peak speeds.

AT&T, previously known as Cingular, launched its HSDPA network in 2005, supporting 1.8 Mb/s, but boosted that capacity to 3.6 Mb/s by 2008. Most of the laptop cards and smartphones AT&T sells, including the iPhone, have the silicon necessary to access that additional capacity. AT&T is now in the process of field certifying 7.2-Mb/s devices on its two test networks, McElroy said.

AT&T will most likely skip the final HSPA iteration of 14.4 Mbps, said McElroy, since HSPA+ is now ready for prime time. Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (also known as: HSPA Evolution, HSPA+, I-HSPA or Internet HSPA) is a wireless broadband standard defined in 3GPP release 7.

That could enable AT&T to go straight to 21 Mb/s. HSPA+ actually encompasses a bevy of upgrades, including evolving to a flat IP core and the introduction of smart antenna technology, but AT&T is focusing on upgrades to the baseband, which will dramatically increase capacity without having to fiddle with the elements on the tower or in the core.

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