John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

With HSPA+ Network Upgrade, AT&T Buys Time for LTE

Convinced that long-term-evolution, or LTE, wireless broadband’s path to maturity might be quite a bit longer than some of its rivals claim, AT&T is significantly expanding its HSPA+ network upgrade. The carrier is throwing about $10 million at the effort, which it says will double real-world download speeds from 7Mbps to up to 14Mbps–theoretically, anyway.

“This move to HSPA+ is primarily a software upgrade for equipment across our network, very similar to the upgrade we made earlier this year to HSPA 7.2,” said AT&T CTO John Donovan.

“Also like HSPA 7.2,” Donovan added, “the full speed benefits of HSPA+ will be seen when the software upgrade is combined with enhanced Ethernet-powered fiber-optic backhaul connections, which carry traffic from the cell site to the network backbone. We’re deploying these backhaul connections to cell sites across the nation, a process that will continue through 2011, when we plan to begin deployment of LTE.”

So there has been no change to carrier’s LTE rollout plans. For AT&T (T), this HSPA+ upgrade is intended as a bridge to LTE, which in all likelihood will be an overlay network to 3G for the next few years.

As AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey told GigaOm yesterday, “[LTE] vendors are experiencing some challenges on certain features and software, and first implementations in 2011 will be…pretty vanilla.”

And according to a recent study by research house Maravedis, LTE won’t really hit maturity for another four to five years. Until that day arrives, mobile users will necessarily be falling back on 3G.

A wise move, then, for AT&T to enhance its entire 3G footprint, and at such little cost, particularly at a time when more and more data-hungry devices like Apple’s (AAPL) iPad are arriving at market.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik