updated 03:30 pm EST, Thu December 18, 2008
ATT Tests 7Mbps 3G
AT&T confirmed on Thursday that it has started testing some of it next-wave 3G services through a trial in Chicago. The upgrade follows previously revealed plans and gives users of supporting devices a theoretical peak 7.2Mbps download speed versus the 3.6Mbps of the current network. Upload speeds aren't mentioned but may not change depending on whether the service continues to use the older, download-focused HSDPA spec or the full HSPA format, which supports 2.9Mbps.
Carrier spokesman Mark Siegel doesn't say when the 7.2Mbps service will exit the trial period and when the network will receive the update, though the feature is believed tied to simpler software upgrades rather than a full hardware update. These speeds could also be increased to 14.4Mbps or more, Siegel adds.
Few AT&T devices directly support the faster 7.2Mbps standard and are primarily limited to devices like the HTC Touch Pro and the company's various PC modems. None currently support 14.4Mbps. A new Infineon chipset may give the 7.2Mbps speeds and faster uploads to the iPhone.
The official also reiterates that AT&T won't move directly from its regular 3G service directly to 4G on the Long Term Evolution format. Instead, the company still plans to first move to the intermediary HSPA+ standard. Siegel declines to say when this upgrade will take place or what speeds it will entail, though the company's wireless chief Ralph de la Vega has previously said download speeds would increase to around 20Mbps in 2009 through another software update for much of the network.
AT&T is under pressure to upgrade its speeds quickly given moves from its now larger rival Verizon, which is moving to 4G as soon as late 2009 and could top out at a maximum 100Mbps.