More backhaul connections are still needed before faster data speeds are available

AT&T catches a lot of heat from its customers and its competition for the state of its network in many locations. AT&T blames some of the issues with dropped calls and slow data speeds on iPhone users who consume lots of bandwidth.

In May of 2009, AT&T announced that it would begin upgrading its 3G network in some areas to new HSPA 7.2 Mbps speeds. AT&T also said at the time that it planned to double the spectrum that it allowed for 3G service in some areas.

The first six cities in the country to get the new faster HSPA 7.2 speeds from AT&T were unveiled in September 2009 and included Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami. Today AT&T has announced that its software update of all nationwide 3G cell towers to support the HSPA 7.2 service has been completed. The software update has the nationwide network of AT&T towers ready for the faster data speeds.

AT&T reports that it decided to expedite the roll out of the software update to provide better customer experience and improve consistency in data sessions. The software update sets the table for the 7.2Mbps speeds to come later in 2010 and in 2011 as additional backhaul connections are added to support the higher speeds.

"We are focused on providing our customers with the industry's best combination of mobile broadband speed, performance, coverage and available devices," said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations, who announced the network updates at the Citigroup 20th Annual Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference today. "As we light up new backhaul connections across the country, we're able to deliver a meaningful 3G speed boost for millions of customers who are already using HSPA 7.2-compatible devices. At the same time, we're also looking to the future with these backhaul enhancements, which will support our move to next-generation LTE technology starting in 2011."

AT&T says that it already has ten HSPA 7.2 devices on the market today including the highly popular iPhone 3GS along with nine others. More HSPA 7.2 handsets are in the works for 2010. The backhaul updates for the AT&T towers are a key part of the transition to LTE that is coming as well.

"Even as we look forward to LTE, 3G will be the predominant mobile broadband network technology worldwide for smartphones for the next few years," said Stankey. "AT&T's strategy will deliver faster 3G speeds over the next two years, while also allowing us to build the foundation for the LTE future."

AT&T still plans to begin trials of LTE service in 2010 and will begin LTE deployment in 2011. With the six cities previously mentioned being the first to get the HSPA 7.2 speed upgrade that includes the additional backhaul connections needed for LTE, odds are these will also be the LTE testing areas and among the first to get LTE service when it is available.

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