AT&T is increasing the download speed of its 3G network to 7.2 Mbps. Currently, this carrier’s HSPA (high-speed packet access) network offers downloads at 3.6 Mbps under ideal conditions, so this upgrade will be a doubling in speed.
All that this increase requires is installing new software on its cell towers, so it’s a relatively simple process.
However, the 3G network is only half of the equation — phones won’t automatically be able to take advantage of the increased network speed. Most of AT&T’s current models support HSPA at 3.6 Mbps, and the carrier is now testing its products with towers that offer 7.2 Mbps downloads.
According to unconfirmed reports, the next generation of the Apple iPhone will debut this summer with support for this faster 3G network.
Continuing to Upgrade
Later this year, AT&T is going to start upgrading its network with HSPA+, which will increase the theoretical download speed to 21 Mbps.
In 2010, the carrier is going to start building its LTE (long-term evolution) network, which should go on-line the following year. This 4G standard will offer download speeds near 150 Mbps.
Scott McElroy, AT&T Mobility VP of technology realization, says that LTE service will be available first for laptops but phones will eventually be able to use it. These devices will offer voice service over this data network with VoIP software.