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AT&T to Double its 3G Capacity

AT&T is in the process of doubling the capacity of its 3G networks, using software enhancements to squeeze one last boost in bandwidth from its current generation networks before it begins its migration to evolved 3G and eventually 4G. Tweaks to the HSPA network will bring 3G capacity up to 7.2 Mb/s even before AT&T implements next-gen wireless technologies.

AT&T is increasing the downlink capacity on its high-speed packet access (HSPA) from 3.6 megabits per second to 7.2 Mb/s through software upgrades at the base station, said Scott McElroy, AT&T Mobility vice president of technology realization. AT&T currently has the enhanced networks running in two test markets but plans to extend those capabilities to its entire network. Later this year, AT&T plans to start migrating its 3G networks to evolved-HSPA (or HSPA+), which would triple peak speeds.

Theoretically HSPA can support up 14.4 Mb/s of capacity over a 5-MHz downlink, but when the technology was first introduced, commercial equipment wasn't able to meet HSPA's full potential. The results have been a series of iterations in the HSPA standard that operators have been implementing as vendors release both the upgrade modules needed at the base station and the enhanced device chipsets required to support the increased capacities. AT&T, then Cingular, launched its network in 2005, supporting 1.8 Mb/s, but boosted that capacity to 3.6 Mb/s by 2008. Most of the laptop cards and smartphones AT&T sells, including the iPhone, have the silicon necessary to access that additional capacity. AT&T is now in the process of field certifying 7.2-Mb/s devices on its two test networks, McElroy said.

Everything in telecom world is converging towards high-speed data networks, it’s a good step from AT&T to enhance network data capability is current circumstances.

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