For the third time in the past year, AT&T has announced that it is upgrading the speed of its 3G network, promising peak speeds of 7.2Gbps.
Last June, AT&T said that it had upgraded its 3G network to reach peak speeds of 1.7Mbps. This past April, the company said that it was doubling its 3G capacity to reach peak speeds of 3.6Mbps. Now the company says that it is again doubling its peak 3G speeds by starting to upgrade its network to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology later this year. The upgrades are projected to be completed by 2011, when AT&T hopes it will start its deployments for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. AT&T officially finished building its 3G network in June just as Apple's iPhone 3G was coming to market. At the time, the company said that its HSPA network would deliver peak downlink speeds of up to 1.7Mbps.
However, the network's advertised peak speeds have proven controversial for AT&T, as both the carrier and Apple have been sued for allegedly delivering data to the iPhone at speeds that have fallen short of those promised in marketing campaigns. Additionally, a recent study by Gartner Research showed that all four major U.S. carriers' 3G networks failed to deliver on customers' expectations for data rates. Gartner said that it received the most complaints from users about AT&T's network and that actual mobile network averages are "generally between 300Kbps and 700Kbps lower" than expected for both uplink and downlink speeds.
AT&T first began deploying its 3G network and services in 2004 when it rolled out a 220K to 320Kbps Wideband Code Division Multiple Access service to four U.S. markets. Between 2005 and 2008, the company has invested nearly $20 billion in network upgrades that have helped transition its wireless network to 3G services.