AT&T boosts wireless network speeds

The company increases speeds on its 3G wireless network, letting laptop users upload and download content from the Net faster than 3G services from other carriers.

AT&T's wireless network has just gotten a little faster.

The company announced on Wednesday that enhancements to its HSPA, or High Speed Packet Access, third-generation cellular network will allow wireless laptop users to upload and download content from the Internet faster than they can with 3G services from other carriers.

The top three major wireless operators, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint Nextel, have been touting the speeds and feeds of their 3G wireless networks for more than a year in an attempt to lure profitable business customers to their wireless laptop services. These services, which cost about $60 a month, are ideal for road warriors who need consistent high-speed wireless Internet connectivity anywhere.

Until now, they've all offered similar speeds. Verizon and Sprint use a CDMA-based technology called EV-DO. They advertise download speeds of about 600Kbps to 1.4Mbps and upload speeds of between 500Kbps and 800Kbps. And until today, AT&T's 3G network offered similar speeds.

Now AT&T claims it is offering downloads of 700Kbps to 1.7Mbps and uploads of 500Kbps to 1.2Mbps. The faster speeds are the result of an ongoing network upgrade. AT&T uses a GSM-based technology called HSPA. It has recently finished upgrading 275 markets to the latest version of the technology known as HSUPA, which provides faster upload links. The company had already deployed HSDPA, which provides faster download speeds.

As the company upgrades to the faster upload speeds it looks like it's also tweaked its download performance. Last month, the head of wireless for AT&T said that the company will offer theoretical network download speeds of 20Mbps as early as next year as it continues to upgrade and tweak its network. Of course, the real world network performance is far less than this and users can expect to get average download speeds between 4Mbps and 6.6Mbps.

AT&T plans to continue upgrading its network to reach 350 major markets by the end of the year. Sprint and Verizon already serve these market, so AT&T still has some catching up to do. But AT&T is already in most of the major cities. The company also recently started offering free Wi-Fi in its 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots as an added bonus to its cellular wireless laptop users.

To take advantage of the new fast speeds, customers will need HSUPA-equipped gear. AT&T currently offers four LaptopConnect adapters in either USB, PC Card, or Express card form.

 

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