AT&T boosts cell data speeds

Editor’s Note: The following PC World article is reprinted from the Glenn Fleishman on Hardware blog at the PCW Business Center.

There’s a close competition among America’s three 3G (third-generation) cellular operators, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. The three companies all vie to have the fastest, most extensive networks, because they’re appealing to business travelers. Until yesterday, the three carriers each claimed downstream rates of 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps and upstream rates of 500 to 800 Kbps as an average range that normal users would experience in any covered area. Sustained downloads can peak over 2 Mpbs.

AT&T Wednesday said that it’s tweaked its network to hit 700 Kbps to 1.7 Mbps down and 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps up. AT&T’s network uses the GSM evolution standard HSPA (High Speed Packet Access). AT&T’s original HSPA networked was labeled HSDPA, with the D for Downlink. It’s finishing up the HSUPA (U for Uplink) upgrade this month in their 275 covered markets, and have apparently tweaked both D and U in the process.

To use these data rates, customers have to have HSUPA capable gear, which includes four LaptopConnect adapters currently sold by AT&T in USB, PC Card, and ExpressCard form factors. When purchased online and after sending in a mail-in rebate, these cards net out at $50 with a two-year service contract. Monthly service is $60 with a 2-year commitment and has a 5 GB up and down data cap after which excess charges may be applied.

AT&T says it will hit the 350 top metro markets by year’s end. Sprint and Verizon already cover those markets, so have an advantage in overall coverage, but it’s really the smaller of the large metro areas that are in play; all the metropolises are already 3G’d.

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