When asked earlier this year about its 4G or LTE efforts, AT&T said that it would first focus on building out its HSPA+ network, or its fastest high-speed broadband option. So far it seems to have paid off as I’m seeing up to 5Mbps download speeds in certain cities. It’s not too shabby when I’ll regularly see 4-7Mbps on Sprint’s WiMax network and T-Mobile’s own HSPA+ network, which has a theoretical top speed of 21Mbps.
AT&T says that 80% of its network now has HSPA+ coverage, so most users with higher end 3G devices should be enjoying some faster data speeds with more ubiquity. Again, on my iPhone 4 I’ll regularly see 3-5Mbps, which is more than good enough for most applications and uses.
So, given its coverage percentage now, what does this mean for AT&T and its HSPA+ competitor, T-Mobile, who claims to have “America’s largest 4G network”?
In addition to adding faster HSPA+ radio technology, AT&T has been upgrading fiber backhaul links to its cell sites, Donovan said. The carrier’s 80 percent figure is notable because T-Mobile USA has been rolling out HSPA+ on its network and marketing the service as “4G”–something AT&T has taken exception to.
T-Mobile plans to cover 100 markets and 200 million POPs with HSPA+ by year-end. AT&T, for its part, expects to cover 250 million POPs with HSPA+ by year-end. Further, AT&T plans to launch LTE service by the middle of next year and cover 70-75 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2011.