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AT&T Reaching 3G HSUPA Milestone

San Antonio — AT&T Mobility plans by the end of June to finish the rollout of faster uplink speeds throughout its existing 3G network, accelerating handset uplinks to an average 500kbps to 800kbps, from 100kbps to 120kbps, in its more than 275 3G markets.

The new uplink technology, called high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA), works with AT&T’s 3G high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology, which delivers to-the-handset downloads up to 1.4Mbps in AT&T’s current 3G network.

HSUPA will appear in six more markets by the end of June, then it will be rolled out in tandem with the continued expansion of HSDPA technology in about 75 more markets by the end of the year.

AT&T said more than 75 percent of the handsets available in its company-owned stores and all of its wireless laptop modems are HSDPA-capable. All of its laptop cards are also HSUPA-capable but no handsets are yet.

“By fully deploying HSUPA across our 3G footprint, we not only meet the current needs of our customers but also lay the path for our continued evolution to even faster wireless broadband capabilities,” said Kris Rinne, architecture and planning senior VP for AT&T Mobility.

Carriers that combine HSUPA and HSDPA technology in their networks are calling the combination high-speed packet access (HSPA).

“The company’s HSPA network is the best-positioned among American carriers to grow in line with customer demand, evolving to HSPA+ and providing next-generation speeds without costly investments,” a spokesperson added. “AT&T plans to adopt LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology to reach even higher speeds in the long term.”

During the recent CTIA convention, AT&T executives told TWICE that it will evolve its HSPA network to accelerate downloads from the current theoretical peak of 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps by late this year or early 2009. The carrier will further accelerate HSPA download speeds to 21Mbps or 28Mbps around 2010, Rinne also said at the time. Those speeds would roughly match peak Mobile WiMAX rates expected to exceed 20Mbps. LTE and future WiMAX evolutions promise peak speeds up to 100Mbps, Rinne added.

Between 2005 and 2008, AT&T said it will have invested more than $20 billion in network improvements and upgrades. AT&T recently turned off its older 2G 850MHz TDMA network so it can reuse the spectrum for 3G use.

In a related announcement, AT&T said its laptop-modem subscribers whose data plans cost $59.99/month or more will get free access to the carrier’s more than 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots.