updated 11:30 am EST, Thu January 15, 2009
Vodafone HSPA Plus Trial
Cellular carrier Vodafone on Thursday said that it has successfully run a field test of HSPA+ on its network to pave the way for deploying the 3.5G service. A trial conducted in Spain has managed 16Mbps downstream speeds in peak but real-world conditions, or more than double the theoretical-only 7.2Mbps peak for regular HSPA. The test comes despite using a single-antenna reception setup that limits the potential bandwidth on the network.
The company expects to test a faster-still approach using MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) antennas. Similar to 802.11n Wi-Fi, the format sends out and pieces together data assembled with multiple antennas and should be faster both at peak and at the farther reaches of service. Tougher but still good conditions are reckoned as supporting up to 13Mbps speeds, while an average inner-city connection should still manage a genuine 4Mbps despite the frequently heavy interference in these areas.
Testing for MIMO starts during the winter and should lead to full commercial service if it proves successful; new devices will be needed to take advantage of HSPA+ speeds.
The Vodafone news follows on the heels of a near-ready Telstra network that should start full service within the next several weeks. The US will get its first HSPA+ network through AT&T, which plans 20Mbps service this year and says much of its existing, 3.6Mbps 3G network can be upgraded through software instead of by replacing equipment.