A report confirms that AT&T has begun to test enhanced 3G services in Chicago. The enhancements being tested give devices supporting HSDPA a theoretical peak 7.2Mbps download speed versus the 3.6Mbps of the current network. The report did not mention much about how upload speeds might be enhanced.
Unfortunately, this news might mean very little to current iPhone 3G users since the Infineon chipset in the iPhone 3G may not support these faster speeds that could top out at 14.4Mbps. A future chip update may allow future iPhones to support this speed or higher.
The report further details AT&T's intent to move toward the intermediate standard of HSPA+ before going to the new Long Term Evolution (4G) specification on AT&T's network. According to AT&T spokesman, Mark Siegel, ""We have some real advantages with our (GSM-based) technology path," Siegel said. "We still have plenty of room left to increase speeds" before moving to LTE."
AT&T refused to give any information related to the timing of the upgrade or really any specific details per the report. However, AT&T is probably going to be acting quickly to stay ahead of competitors like Sprint and Verizon. Verizon is said to be making a quick move to it's own 4G technology possibly completing the move before the end of 2009. Sprint on the other hand is moving along with it's own 4G under the guise of CDMA/WiMAX.
It remains to be seen what advantages if any current model iPhone 3G users will see from these network enhancements. However one could hope that while this is being tested that AT&T continues to add capacity to their seemingly already overtaxed 3G infrastructure. Any enhancements of network speed and capacity would be welcomed by iPhone 3G users.