More Details on AT&T Upgrading Network in Advance of Next Gen iPhone

We'd mentioned previously that AT&T is upgrading the ole rabbit-eared 3G network for Apple's upcoming next generation iPhone, and WMExperts covered it yesterday, but it's worth surfacing the details:

AT&T Mobility VP Scott McElroy says software updates will double the downstream speed to 7.2 megabits per second and are already being tested in two markets [...] But AT&T's looking past that and toward HSPA+, which will increase speeds to 21 Mb/s. And looking even further into the future, tests with the 4G LTE standard should begin sometime next year.

A helpful commenter, Will, gave us the skinny on those phat pipes after the last podcast:

  • Plain ‘ol 3G refers to the original WCDMA specs which gives a max throughput of 384 kbps.
  • 3.5G in the UMTS world commonly refers to HSDPA which is already up and running.
  • "3.75G" - 3GPP Revision 6 - HSDPA (max of 14.4Mbps) and HSUPA (max of 5.76Mbps), known together as HSPA
  • "3.9G" - 3GPP Revision 7 - HSDPA (max of 42Mbps) and HSUPA (max of 11Mbps), known as HSPA+

Thanks Will. Well, by any other name, we hope these upgrades not only give iPhone users blazing fast speeds, but better reliability. Doesn't matter how fast you go if you can't connect, right?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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More Details on AT&T Upgrading Network in Advance of Next Gen iPhone


I've been getting 1.2 to 1.5 mbps previously and this morning I was getting 1.8 mps pretty constantly, so something's up here in the Los Angeles Metro area.

So what's going to happen with Rogers in Canada? Any word on whether they are upgrading their 3G network?

How about AT&T upgrades the rest of its Edge network to 3g before it upgrades its 3g to 3.5g? Some of us would like decent speed where we are too.

Great idea. There's no 3G down here in L.A...(lower Alabama :) )
and the edge coverage needs improvement too

No 3g in Beaufort, SC either. Go 1 hour north and Charleston,SC has it or Go 45 minutes south and Savannah,GA has it. I definetly think that Att should spread the 3g love more before they upgrade current 3g area but I know it won't happen. I won't to us Gps d@mnit. Lol

Rene, that is kinda irresponsible quoting. You make it seem as if they are looking past 7.2 to 21mpbs, when the actual quote was that they were looking past 14.4 and would go directly to 21 from 7.2, when they decide to upgrade further. The reason being that 14.4 presented to technical challenges that they could skip if they went directly to 21.
Also, you should probably mention that this software update to 7.2 in itself does virtually nothing. The real interest should be that they are upgrading their backhaul to better support increased data consumption. (through Fiber, Microwave, etc.). Some readers might get the hopeful impression that they could achieve 7.2 b/c their phone and tower support it, but this is not necessarily the case. In many places, AT&T will choose to leave a single T1 or two T1's to serve a tower. In that case, users will get nowhere near 7.2 down, especially if there are a couple subscribers using data.

I bet ATT upgrades those areas that some 3G coverage first and maybe in a few years they will do the rest. I'm sure they are more concerned with the key business cities. I hope I wrong but ATT's history speaks for itself. For those who only have edge and hope you get the upgrade first--I wouldn't hold my breath for the upgrade. :-(

Groan.....AT&T is upping it's network's capabilities. How many of AT&T's handsets are on the 3G network? Answer? More than just Apple's. Let's understand that the company is updating its network....but not necessarily in anticipation of an alleged new iPhone release.

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