updated 08:45 am EDT, Wed May 14, 2008
ATT 20Mbps 3G in 2009
AT&T's cellular Internet access will be more than five times faster in 2009 than it is this year, the company's mobility chief Ralph de la Vega said today at Morgan Stanley's annual Communications Conference. The executive says that the company's HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) network will be improved from the theoretical peak downloads of 3.6 megabits per second common across most of the network today to about 20 megabits per second in 2009.
In spite of the increase in speed, the improvement won't require a major reworking of AT&T's existing cell tower infrastructure and will primarily involve a software upgrade for the network, de la Vega explains. He adds that an interim HSPA upgrade to 7.2 megabits per second is already "in the labs" and that the company's Option network cards are already capable of the 7.2Mbps speed.
This quick ramp-up in speed is why AT&T isn't concerned about the expansion of Sprint's Xohm and the unified Clearwire WiMAX service, he says. Although WiMAX will be available this year and is considered 4G, AT&T's time-to-market for its upgraded 3G will allow it to offer competitive speeds across a wider area sooner than the new challenger.
The company official also reiterated AT&T's plans to offer 700MHz 4G access through the Long Term Evolution standard by approximately 2010, when peak downloads should near the 100-megabit mark. Verizon also plans 700MHz LTE of its own but plans to launch slightly earlier, unveiling an early network in late 2009.
Both the improved 3G as well as 4G are considered essential by most experts for broadband-level services on cellular networks, including two-way video calling, permanent video downloads, and real-time online apps such as multiplayer games. De la Vega acknowledged that AT&T would have to shift its emphasis from traditional calls to Internet features in the process.
"The future is all about data," according to the AT&T senior official.