AT&T today announced details of its rollout plans for High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology, which will provide a considerable speed boost to what is already the nation's fastest 3G mobile broadband network.
Supporting this HSPA 7.2 initiative is AT&T's ongoing deployment of additional backhaul capacity to cell sites. These backhaul connections add critical capacity to the network to support today's unprecedented growth in mobile data traffic as well as the future demands of next-generation 4G networks.
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. All told, the company plans to deploy HSPA 7.2 in 25 of the nation's 30 largest markets by the end of 2010, and to reach about 90 percent of its existing 3G network footprint with HSPA 7.2 by the end of 2011.
The upgraded network platform allows for theoretical peak speeds of 7.2Mbps. Typical real-world downlink and uplink speeds experienced by customers with upgraded 3G will be less than the theoretical peak and will vary based on a number of factors, including location, device, and overall traffic on the local wireless network at a given time.
"Our deployment of HSPA 7.2 and supporting backhaul connectivity will enable our customers to continue to ride the leading edge of emerging devices and thousands of mobile applications," said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations. "Our network is based on the predominant technology platform used by operators worldwide and has been tested by today's most popular devices. That experience gives us an important advantage in developing and deploying new technologies to meet customers' future needs."
The AT&T rollout of HSPA 7.2 will be matched with the availability of multiple compatible wireless handsets and devices. The company expects to have six HSPA 7.2-compatible smartphones in its device portfolio by the end of the year, as well as two new LaptopConnect cards. This wide range of options will enable customers to quickly take full advantage of HSPA 7.2 speeds. In contrast, LTE devices are still in development.
As HSPA 7.2 is rolled out in each U.S. market, it will be supported by substantial additional wireless backhaul, the critical connections that carry traffic from cell sites to AT&T's IP backbone network. This backhaul capacity, including thousands of new connections this year, is being designed to support not only HSPA 7.2, but also 4G LTE, which AT&T plans to begin trialing in 2010 and deploying in 2011.
"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," Stankey said. "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."
The upgrades are part of AT&T's ongoing efforts to drive innovation and investment to lead the industry in delivering the benefits of smartphones and mobile broadband for customers. More smartphone customers have chosen AT&T over any U.S. competitor, resulting in wireless traffic on the AT&T network that has quadrupled over the past year. This growth includes a volume of smartphone data traffic over the AT&T network that is unmatched in the wireless industry.
AT&T is responding to this unprecedented growth in its history with plans to invest between $17 billion and $18 billion this year, more than two-thirds of which is going toward broadband and wireless. The company's deployment of HSPA 7.2 and additional backhaul connections are a key part of this network enhancement strategy. Other key projects include:
* An initiative to substantially expand the wireless spectrum serving 3G customers in hundreds of markets across the country, using high-quality 850 MHz spectrum. This additional spectrum expands overall network capacity and improves in-building reception. Deployments of this 850 MHz spectrum are about 90 percent complete today, with local roll-outs recently completed in New York, Atlanta and Houston.
* Addition of about 2,000 new cell sites to our network in 2009, expanding service to new cities and improving coverage in other areas.
* Enabling widespread access to our Wi-Fi network - the largest in the country with more than 20,000 hotspots in all 50 states - to qualifying customers, allowing them to take advantage of the best available AT&T mobile broadband connection.
* Preparation for field trials of 4G LTE wireless networks next year, with deployment planned to follow in 2011. This schedule aligns with industry expectations of when a wide variety of compatible 4G wireless devices will be available.
AT&T matches this network investment with unsurpassed choice in the range of devices, services and applications compatible with its 3G network. AT&T offers a wide variety of devices from more than a dozen manufacturers, including handsets that are compatible with six different operating systems and five different e-mail applications. Our MEdia Mall 2.0 offers more than 90,000 content options, and customers can download additional applications over the Internet. Additionally, AT&T supports a community of more than 20,000 application developers via its devCentral portal.
HSPA 7.2 is part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of technologies, which include GSM and UMTS. Emerging LTE technology is also part of the 3GPP technology roadmap, enabling AT&T's network to offer backward compatibility, or the ability for users with qualifying devices to seamlessly switch among 4G LTE, 3G and 2G service areas to maintain the fastest-available connection. This availability will be critical for customers in the early years of LTE deployment across the industry, when access to LTE service will be limited by roll-out schedules and device availability.