AT&T plans 3G upgrade; Promises 'considerably' faster mobile broadband speeds

Here's good news for iPhone users: AT&T said Wednesday that it is plotting a 3G network upgrade to offer "considerably faster mobile broadband speeds."Of course, the bad news is that AT&T's network is holding you back now.

Here's good news for iPhone users: AT&T said Wednesday that it is plotting a 3G network upgrade to offer "considerably faster mobile broadband speeds."

Of course, the bad news is that AT&T's network is holding you back now. 

The company said its upgrade will be completed in 2011. Specifically, AT&T said it will upgrade its High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology on the 3G side. AT&T plans to begin LTE trials---the rival to WiMax---in 2010 with deployments starting in 2011.

 AT&T's news (statement) was timed to overlap with CEO Randall Stephenson's talk at the D7 conference. Walt Mossberg asked Stephenson why AT&T's network wasn't ready for the iPhone's bandwidth consumption:

Walt: Let’s talk for a moment about the iPhone. It’s a data-intensive device. You weren’t ready when you first launched the iPhone 3G. What happened? Stephenson says the company wasn’t quite ready. “But we’re improving.”

A look at what AT&T is promising:

  • A doubling of 850 MHz wireless spectrum devoted to 3G in most metro areas;
  • New cell backhaul connections via fiber-optic connectivity and additional cell sites (2,100 of them);
  • A theoretical peak speed of 7.2Mbps on the 3G network (you'll get less in the real world);
  • AT&T's 3G network will be deployed to 20 additional metro areas in 2009.

Add it up and AT&T said its total capital spending budget for 2009 will remain in the $17 billion to $18 billion range.

Also see: 4G wireless makes progress with WiMax, LTE developments