How fast can we go?


Canada’s four wireless carriers are at the moment running spanking new HSPA+ data networks, which offer the possibility – under ideal conditions – of 21Mbps download speeds. That’s pretty zippy, compared to the 3.5 Mbps max you could get from Bell Mobility and Telus before November. But HSPA+ can go faster.


Until now, telecom equipment supplier LM Ericsson has tested its HSPA+ system up to 42 Mbps. However, today it announced a deal with carrier 3 Scandinavia, which operates in Denmark and Sweden, to bring its wireless network up in stages to 84 Mpbs. That’s close to the 100 Mbps speeds that have been promised by LTE, the next-generation wireless technology.

In the U.S., Verizon Wireless is leaping from its current CDMA/EV-DO-based network, which tops out at 3.5 Mpbs, straight to LTE. Trials have already started with the goal of beginning commercial service in selected cities late this year. AT&T plans to start deploying LTE next year.

Which raises the question of how fast will Canadian operators shift to LTE? Right now we have the fastest wireless networks in North America among carriers who offer both voice and data service. (So that excludes Clearwire's data-only Clear WiMax service). When Verizon goes LTE, will Canuck carriers quickly follow suit?

Not necessarily. If HSPA+ can triple current ideal speeds, then there’s no rush, say some industry analysts. Canada’s relatively small population means we should be able to take HSPA to the max for several more years before upgrading to LTE.

According to Mikael Ricknäs of IDG News, Ericsson’s 84 Mbps upgrade to 3 Scandinavia’s network will arrive in Q4. USB laptop dongles are expected to be available sometime in the fall.

Users can expect peak speeds at up to 30 Mbps, an Ericsson exec to IDG. However, a Gartner analyst believes it will be difficult to get above 20 Mbps on a congested network.

Meanwhile, Ericsson thinks it can get HSPA+ up to 168 Mbps.


Hold on to your hats.

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