In January, AT&T Mobility had said it was in no hurry to migrate to 4G LTE technology--but that was before rival Verizon Wireless outlined its aggressive LTE strategy and doled out infrastructure contracts and iPhone data traffic skyrocketed into the stratosphere on the network.
This week during the keynote at the 4G World conference in Chicago, Kris Rinne, AT&T's senior vice president of architecture and planning, spelled out network upgrade plan that now doesn't include evolved HSPA, or HSPA+, which bumps peak data speeds to 21 Mbps. Originally the operator had a plan to move to HSPA, which offers peak data rates of 7.2 Mbps, and then milk the network some more by deploying HSPA+ before it moves to LTE in 2010. Rinne said AT&T will continue to look at HSPA+ but has no plans to deploy it.
Last week, AT&T announced HSPA will become available in six cities by the end of the year. By the end of 2010, AT&T said it will have deployed its HSPA upgrade in 25 of the country's 30 largest markets, and that the upgrade will be in place in 90 percent of its 3G footprint by the end of 2011. AT&T also said it would add backhaul capacity to its cell sites while it upgrades its HSPA technology, and that it would have six HSPA 7.2-compatible smartphones available by year-end, as well as two new LaptopConnect cards.
While it only makes sense that operators would deploy HSPA+ because it is a software upgrade, operators still need to upgrade their base stations and deploy MIMO to take advantage of the higher speeds. Moreover, consumers have to upgrade their handsets and laptop cards. The reasoning is that if operators have to upgrade hardware anyway, they might as well invest in LTE.
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