AT&T to complete 3G network by next month

AT&T announced Wednesday that it is on track to complete its 3G mobile broadband network by the end of June, thus becoming the first U.S. carrier to fully deploy High-Speed Packet Access technology over its network.

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 third-generation mobile devices. AT&T’s HSPA network currently delivers data download speeds of up to 1.4Mbps and upload speeds of up to 800Kbps. Currently, AT&T’s HSPA services are available in around 275 markets in the United States, and the company says they will be available in 350 U.S. markets by year-end.

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 per cent of its currently available handsets are 3G-capable, and that it plans to release more 3G smartphones throughout the year. Some analysts have speculated that AT&T and Apple will release the first 3G-capable iPhone sometime this summer.

“The ability to quickly upload large files from a laptop is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity,” says Kris Rinne, the senior vice president of architecture and planning for AT&T’s wireless operations. “By fully deploying HSUPA across our 3G footprint, we not only meet the current needs of our customers but also lay the path for our continued evolution to even fast wireless broadband capabilities.”

AT&T views its full HSPA deployment as the next logical step in its eventual progression to deploying the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology that is expected to first have devices on the market in 2010. LTE and HSPA are both variations of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) that was developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to mobile broadband services for GSM devices.

AT&T first began deploying its 3G network and services in 2004 when it rolled out a 220Kbps — 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.

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