updated 09:45 am EDT, Wed September 9, 2009
Chicago, others to get 7Mbps AT&T 3G
AT&T this morning provided more definite plans for its promised rollout of 7.2Mbps 3G on its network. Only six cities will receive the upgraded HSPA-based network this year and will focus mostly on the southern US: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami will all see the doubled download speeds at first. Expansion in 2010 will have 25 of the 30 largest markets receive the update, while about 90 percent of AT&T's entire service will have been upgraded in 2011.
To accommodate the faster speeds, AT&T expects to have six supporting smartphones and two notebook adapters by the end of 2009. At least one of these is the iPhone 3GS, which already supports 7.2Mbps 3G on Rogers and other carriers with more advanced HSPA networks.
The company paints the update as a bridge to 4G, which should begin trials in 2010 and deploy as a full service in 2011. The statement includes an indirect criticism of Verizon's rollout and claims that the 7.2Mbps upgrade will give AT&T faster practical speeds, as 4G devices are still "in development" and the networks themselves will still be too young.
In its release, AT&T notably doesn't mention its repeatedly promised HSPA+ 3G update. Company spokesman Seth Bloom tells Electronista that the interim 20Mbps 3G "remains an option" it might use but now says that the timeframe for expansion likely means AT&T will jump directly from 7.2Mbps 3G to 4G instead. A handful of carriers, like Rogers and Telstra, are already starting to deploy HSPA+ on a limited scale.