AT&T Speeds up 3G Network

AT&T said Wednesday it has upgraded its 3G wireless network to reach downlink speeds of up to 1.7Mbps, a 20% increase over previous top speeds.

AT&T says the increased speeds are the result of upgrades to the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network that the company projects to complete by the end of the month. HSPA is a mobile broadband technology that is comprised of two wireless broadband protocols, known as High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HPUSA), that operate on 3G mobile devices.

The company says it will have deployed HSUPA across its entire 3G network by the end of June, and it will result in uplink speeds of 1.2Mbps, a 50% increase over its previous peak uplink speeds of 800Kbps.

AT&T will offer its 3G services to all customers who have HSPA-enabled handsets and laptops, including any laptop with a LaptopConnect wireless modem. The company says 75% of its currently available handsets are 3G-capable, and it plans to release more 3G smartphones throughout the year. Apple's new iPhone 2.0, due to be unveiled next week, is widely expected to be a 3G-capable handset that will connect to AT&T's HSPA network.

In a related announcement, AT&T also said today that it will now offer a Net Reach bundle service designed to provide consumers and small businesses with Internet coverage at home, in the office or on the go. The new service uses AT&T Communication Manager software to pick the strongest AT&T wireless network signal within a device's vicinity, whether it comes from one of AT&T's HSPA, EDGE or Wi-Fi networks. Nationwide, AT&T has about 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. AT&T High Speed Internet and AT&T LaptopConnect subscribers are all eligible to sign up for the new service, the company says.

AT&T first began deploying its 3G network and services in 2004 when it rolled out a 220K -- 320Kbps Wideband Code Division Multiple Access service to four U.S. markets.

Between 2005 and 2008, the company has invested nearly US$20 billion in network upgrades that have helped transition its wireless network to 3G services. AT&T currently offers 3G services in 275 nationwide, and the company says they will be available in 350 U.S. markets by year-end.

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