updated 12:30 pm EST, Wed February 6, 2008
ATT 3G Expansion in 2008
AT&T today said it would rapidly expand its third-generation (3G) cellular data network over the course of 2008, greatly improving coverage of the relatively fledgling service. The carrier intends to introduce its HSPA-based Internet access to 80 new cities throughout the year to include a total of 350 areas. Many if not all of these current and future areas will be upgraded to use the faster HSUPA (High Speed Upload Packet Access) format, AT&T adds. Practical speeds for these networks are estimated to range between 600Kbps and 1.4Mbps with downloads and between 500Kbps and 800Kbps for uploads, enabling video uploads as well as more two-way Internet features.
The rollout is also expected to produce a "clear path" for AT&T as it moves towards even faster 3G with HSPA+ and eventual 4G access using the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, according to the company. LTE is not expected to appear on cellular networks until 2009 at the earliest, leaving HSUPA and HSPA+ as bridge standards for AT&T as well as many other providers.
The upgrade may prove to be instrumental to the release of a 3G-capable iPhone, which had been predicted by Apple chief Steve Jobs as well as AT&T chief Randall Stephenson as appearing sometime this year. In 2007, AT&T is known to have focused on expanding and improving its 2G EDGE coverage ahead of the iPhone's initial June release, while British carrier O2 added EDGE to UK towers to help support the release in that country, whose towers often only support either basic GPRS data or else 3G wireless services such as HSPA and UMTS.