HSPA+ Networks Ready, Devices Start to Trickle out

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The transition to the new version of High-Speed Packet Access technology is slowly getting under way, as this week StarHub in Singapore and Mobilkom Austria announced that their HSPA+ networks are live.

Meanwhile, Australian operator Telstra said that its Next G Turbo 21 Modem, which works with HSPA+ networks, is in stores.

This week both StarHub in Singapore and Mobilkom Austria announced that their HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access) networks are live, and Australian operator Telstra said that its Next G Turbo 21 Modem is in stores.

HSPA+, also known as HSPA Evolution and HSPA Evolved, will at first offer a theoretical download speed of up to 21M bps (bits per second). Real-world download speeds will typically range from 550K bps to 8M bps, according to a statement from Telstra.

Now that the networks are live, operators are waiting for larger quantities of modems. Mobilkom Austria has gotten its hands on a "limited" number of modems, which it has started selling online, according to a spokesman. It expects volumes to pick up during the second quarter, he said.

StarHub will offer 100 customers the chance to test its network while the operator is waiting for a larger batch of modems, which it expects to arrive by the end of April, according to a spokeswoman.

In both cases the modems come from Huawei.

Telstra doesn't go into detail on its stock, but says the retail premiere follows the rollout of the device to several thousand business customers last month. Also, it will launch modem for consumers next month, according to a statement.

The upgrade to HSPA+ isn't just about higher maximum speeds. A higher average speed as the number of users increase is just as important, according to Mobilkom Austria. The technology also has a lower latency compared to existing HSPA networks.

Smartphones and laptops will also get built-in support for HSPA+, but it will take some time before that happens.

Laptops with built-in support for the mobile broadband technology won't start to take off until next year, and then it will still mainly be in high-end models, according to Jan Backman, marketing director at Ericsson's mobile broadband modules unit.

The Ericsson unit -- which provides built-in support for mobile broadband in laptops from Dell, Lenovo, LG and Toshiba -- is focusing on getting HSPA into mass market laptops, and today that means netbooks. Putting HSPA+ in netbooks is currently too expensive, Backman said.

The support for HSPA+ in smartphones will have a similar rollout plan, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight. Realistically, it will take until 2010 before we'll see a significant number of smartphones supporting the technology, he said.

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