AT&T Finishes HSPA 7.2 Updates Early. But Not So Fast…

Screen shot 2010-01-05 at 2.44.15 PMToday, AT&T announced that it has completed HSPA 7.2 updates to all its 3G cell sites across the U.S. This was completed earlier than expected as AT&T decided to “expedite” the process to improve customer experience. But don’t get too excited just yet. Despite the upgrade, the faster bandwidth promised by HSPA 7.2 is still limited to a handful of select test cities, we’re told.

HSPA 7.2 is the technology that was promising to deliver data speeds about twice (7.2 Mbps, hence, the name) those of AT&T’s current 3G network. The technology became a topic of dicussion last year when it was revealed that the iPhone 3GS would be HSPA 7.2-compatible. Unfortunately, besides the select users in the initial test markets (Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami), no one with the device has been able to utilize the speed increase and likely won’t for some time still.

So what’s the point of this upgrade if it doesn’t offer the faster promised speeds? Well, AT&T says the software upgrades done to make HSPA 7.2 possible will “result in a better overall customer experience by generally improving consistency in accessing data sessions.” Undoubtedly, this move comes at least partially as a result of a new round of criticism about the reliability of AT&T’s network. It also comes on the day that T-Mobile says it too has upgraded its network to HSPA 7.2. Like AT&T, T-Mobile is the other major GSM network in the U.S.

The move also comes amid all the hoopla Google and T-Mobile are getting today thanks to the new Nexus One device. While the unlocked phone will work on AT&T’s network, it won’t be compatible with AT&T’s 3G service. The Nexus One will, however, be able to run on T-Mobile at 7.2 Mbps, apparently.

The key to getting AT&T’s network up to the 7.2Mbps speed it upgrading its backhaul connections. That’s what AT&T is currently doing in the cities where it is testing the faster speeds, and it says it will continue rolling that out to more markets in 2010, and complete it in 2011. Of course, by then, hopefully we’ll be close to having LTE (next generation networks) coverage around the country.

AT&T says it has currently has 10 HSPA 7.2-compatible devices. They are:

  • iPhone 3GS
  • HTC Tilt2
  • Samsung Jack
  • LG eXpo
  • LaptopConnect Mercury
  • LaptopConnect Lightning
  • Acer Aspire One
  • Samsung Go
  • HP Mini Netbook

[photo: flickr/ethan prater]