At a recent event in New York City, AT&T President and CEO John Stankey said that the company plans on rolling out a 14.4 Mbps upgrade to their 3G network by the end of the year. It’s not going to be done to the entire network, but it should be able to cover about 250 million people.
This bump in speed is achieved by doing a simple software upgrade to today’s HSPA network. Some sites are claiming that it’s HSPA+, but I’m not so sure since HSPA+ starts at 21 Mbps. Either way, what we still lack on the market today is handheld devices that take advantage of such networks. Most smartphones support 7.2 Mbps, some Nokia devices do 10.2 Mbps, but they’ve got limited amounts of CPU horsepower and RAM so it’s not like they can handle such speed anyway.
T-Mobile is dabbling with HSPA+, and have already committed to launching 21 Mbps service by the end of this year, and have said that their 3G will be faster than the competition’s so called “4G” networks. In a test conducted by Laptop Magazine two months ago, they found the performance of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ USB modem to be faster than that of Sprint’s WiMAX network … but only in one or two cities. Coverage is T-Mobile’s problem, and that’s nothing new. They’re the last guys to launch 3G so they’re just catching up.
With LTE smartphones up to 4 years away, maybe it’s a good thing that everyone is talking about upgrading their 3G network. HSPA+ still has a lot of life left in it.