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AT&T Saddles Up For Blazing Speeds

San Antonio — AT&T Mobility tweaked its high-speed packet access (HSPA) cellular-data network to boost average data-download speeds by 20 percent and uplink speeds by 50 percent for users of its wireless laptop modems.

In another announcement, parent AT&T launched AT&T Net Reach, a bundle providing home and mobile Internet access.

In its cellular network, AT&T has accelerated typical wireless-download speeds for its LaptopConnect customers to 700kbps to 1.7Mbps, up from 600kbps to 1.4Mbps. Uplink speeds have accelerated to 500kbps to 1.2Mbps, up from 500kbps to 800kbps.To achieve these speeds, consumers must use a laptop with embedded HSPA modem or one of the following four wireless-data modems: AT&T USBConnect 881, Sierra Wireless AirCard 881, Option GT Ultra or Option GT Ultra Express.

Because of the network tweaks, download speeds will also accelerate to AT&T phones equipped with high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology, but because the handsets’ radios are not as advanced as the modems’ radios, the handsets’ speeds might won’t match the modems’ speeds. In addition, the handsets’ uplink speeds won’t accelerate beyond 100kbps to 120kbps until models equipped with high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) become available. About 75 percent of the company’s handsets feature HSDPA.

AT&T’s wireless-data speeds will accelerate further when the carrier deploys an HSPA upgrade that will double theoretical peak download rates to 7.2 Mbps from 3.6Mbps. The company is currently testing the upgrade, a spokesman told TWICE.

The company’s HSPA network will go into warp drive with a planned network-software upgrade to HSPA+ during 2009 and 2010, delivering peak speeds that could reach 20Mbps, the company said. Longer term, AT&T plans to adopt LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology to reach even higher speeds.

AT&T’s high-speed network is available in more than 275 major metropolitan areas, and by year-end, the company plans to offer HSPA service in almost 350 major metropolitan U.S. areas.

In a second announcement, the company said its AT&T Net Reach bundle of home and mobile Internet access combines AT&T’s home broadband service, LaptopConnect cellular-data service and free access to more than 17,000 AT&T-operated Wi-Fi hotspots, including about 7,000 hotspots in Starbucks outlets. New LaptopConnect software automatically detects the strongest available AT&T signal from a nearby network — cellular HSPA, cellular EDGE, Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi-enabled home broadband service.

AT&T Net Reach plans are available starting at $79.95/month. They can be ordered by calling AT&T or visiting an AT&T retail location. Customers must also opt to combine their wireless and wireline services onto one billing statement.