AT&T today announced that it will begin upgrading its network to the faster High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology later this year. The 3G network upgrade will not be completed until 2011, at which time AT&T plans to start deploying the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. This is contrary to previous roadmaps, which showed HSPA+ (20+ Mbps) deployment occurring prior to the move to LTE.
Devices compatible with HSPA 7.2 3G networks are capable of a theoretical peak download speed of 7.2 Mbps (megabits per second), or almost a megabyte per second. While the current iPhone 3G does not support HSPA 7.2, many of the rumors circulating about a next-generation device include HSPA 7.2 compatibility. AT&T's press release also noted that "multiple HSPA 7.2-compatible laptop cards and smartphones" will be available later this year.
The AT&T network is currently undergoing other upgrades, to the tune of over $17 billion of capital investment. AT&T is still deploying more 850 MHz spectrum for better coverage and in-building 3G reception. The 'Death Star' is adding fiber-optic connectivity and more capacity to many cell sites in anticipation of the higher bandwidth required by HSPA 7.2 and LTE, and the plan is to add almost 2,100 new cell sites in 2009.
AT&T also noted that they're working on customer trials of AT&T 3G MicroCell, using femtocells to improve in-building wireless coverage.