AT&T: We Like HSPA  

AT&T said Wednesday it plans to boost the speed of its 3G wireless network to speeds of 20 megabits per second in 2009, extending the lifetime of 3G.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley’s annual Communications Conference, the company’s mobility chief Ralph de la Vega said engineers already have a version of AT&T’s HSPA 3G network up and running in the labs at speeds of 7.2 megabits per second.

AT&T plans to transition to HSPA release 7 sometime in 2009. He said the upgrade will require few if any hardware modifications to the company’s infrastructure and achieved largely through a software upgrade to its electronics.

De la Vega also said that his firm has “a clear and logical path” to 700MHz 4G access via the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard in the 2010 timeframe which should again increase speeds fivefold “to nearly 100 megabits per second”.

“LTE will allow for backwards compatibility to GSM and HSPA, which is a great benefit to customers. And our path forward to LTE allows us to get there step-by-step, with interim steps that will deliver more and more speeds everyday.”

Of course LTE is not yet a standard. Mobile WiMAX is. The 100 Mbps version (802.16m) will be backware compatible with the existing devices. LTE will require new phones and new basestations. New everything, essentially.

Currently, AT&T’s USB data card costs $99 and $60/month for unlimited usage, Sprint’s USB EVDO modem costs $99, plus $60 a month and Verizon charges $149 for their USB modem and $60-per-month — but only for 5Gb per month. Beyond that, it charges a stunning 49 cents per Mb. Speeds using cellular-based EVDO Rev A and HSPA rarely get beyond 1 Mbps.

Clearwire CTO John Saw says backhaul of WiMAX networks require 30-60 Mbps per site with blanket coverage of the entire 700 sq mile Portland region requiring WiMAX nodes installed on some 80 cell sites. Nortel is supplying VoIP infrastructure and services for Clearwire using their Application Server 5200 to deliver SIP applications.

Barry West, the CTO of Sprint’s Xohm business took the WiMAX critics head-on at the WCA, particularly companies that have adopted LTE as their next-generation technology. Noting that LTE services are years away, West accused the LTE camp of “not having anything to offer”. West says WiMAX has “19 companies offering chipsets, 28 companies offering devices, and 29 companies offering infrastructure.

Tony Melone, CTO of Verizon Wireless told Dan Jones of Unstrung [with a straight face] that they’ll begin deploying LTE in 2009 (video).

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