AT&T announces major mobile network upgrade

fastFrom downloading videos and high-resolution photos, to online gaming and chatting with friends over instant-messengers, the mobile broadband networks of today are strong – but they’re starting to feel ancient. Today, AT&T clarified their plans to upgrade their network to deliver considerably faster mobile broadband speeds by way of HSPA (High Speed Packet Access). HSPA roll outs will begin later this year, firing up in full sometime in 2011.

Theoretically, AT&Ts HSPA upgrades will bring you speeds up to 7.2 megabits per second. The actual speeds will be quite a bit slower, however, varying on a number of things: solar flares, traffic, daily peak times, and acts of god, to name a few.

This all in turn leads up to AT&T’s next upgrade, from HSPA to the oh-so-fast LTE. Trials of the latter begin in 2010, also scheduled for completion sometime in 2011. In other words, mobile internet speeds will be downright ridiculous come 2011.

AT&T’s promised road map:

  • 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.