AT&T Announces Completion of 7.2 Mbps Software Updates, But Backhaul Upgrades Still Needed

U.S. iPhone wireless carrier partner AT&T yesterday announced the completion of its nationwide software upgrade program designed to make all of its 3G cell sites compatible with 7.2 Mbps data speeds, double the current standard.

The deployment of High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology across 3G cell sites is the first of multiple initiatives in AT&T's network enhancement strategy designed to provide customers with the best possible mobile broadband experience, both today and well into the future. After full testing of HSPA 7.2 software, AT&T decided to expedite deployment of this initial upgrade, which will result in a better overall customer experience by generally improving consistency in accessing data sessions. The software upgrade also prepares the network for faster speeds and increases network efficiency.

The faster speeds, which are supported by the iPhone 3GS, will not be available to users, however, until AT&T upgrades its backhaul connections, which the carrier plans to do over the next two years. Backhaul upgrades are currently being performed in the carrier's six test markets, with the faster HSPA 7.2 speeds being activated as infrastructure work is completed. The company anticipates that the majority of its 3G traffic will be shifted to HSPA 7.2 by the end of 2010, with the remainder following in 2011.

AT&T is also continuing to look beyond HSPA 7.2 to deployment of LTE (4G) beginning in 2011, which will offer even better performance for users.

The backhaul upgrades are also a key step in the evolution toward next-generation LTE mobile broadband technology. AT&T is designing its new backhaul deployments to accommodate both faster 3G and future LTE deployments. AT&T currently plans to begin trials of LTE technology this year, and to begin LTE deployment in 2011, matching industry time lines for widespread availability of compelling devices and supporting network equipment.

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