AT&T announces completion of nationwide 3G upgrade

in iPhone edited January 2014
AT&T reported the successful completion of a nationwide software upgrade program that will enable the company to deliver High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 Mbit technology across its 3G cell sites. However, the company is still mum on its 3G MicroCell progress.

Twice as fast, if you can get a signal.

The upgrade is the first of several initiatives to be completed as part of AT&T's overall network enhancement strategy. The company's current HSPA 3.6 Mbit 3G service is already giving AT&T bragging rights to operating America's fastest mobile network, and the update will enable mobile data throughput of up to twice as fast.

Apple's iPhone 3GS, which shipped last summer, is already equipped to take advantage of the faster tier of 3G service. At the same time, the company's network is being dinged by customers for its spotty coverage limitations, particularly in specific areas.

AT&T said the upgrade increases the company's network efficiency and will help in "generally improving consistency in accessing data sessions" for its customers. Additional work now underway and continuing through the next two years will, the company said, "dramatically increase the number of high-speed backhaul connections to cell sites, primarily with fiber-optic connections, adding capacity from cell sites to the AT&T backbone network."

The initial deployment of backhaul improvements is already underway in the six markets AT&T previously announced: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami, with "capabilities being turned up on a site-by-site basis beginning last month," the company reported, adding, "We anticipate that the majority of our mobile data traffic will be carried over the expanded fiber-based, HSPA 7.2-capable backhaul by the end of this year, with deployment continuing to expand in 2011."

"We are focused on providing our customers with the industry's best combination of mobile broadband speed, performance, coverage and available devices," said John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T Operations, who announced the network updates at the Citigroup 20th Annual Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference today. Â*

LTE in the works as well

"As we light up new backhaul connections across the country," Stankey said, "we're able to deliver a meaningful 3G speed boost for millions of customers who are already using HSPA 7.2-compatible devices. Â*At the same time, we're also looking to the future with these backhaul enhancements, which will support our move to next-generation LTE technology starting in 2011."

The company said it is designing its new backhaul deployments to accommodate both faster 3G and future "4G" LTE deployments. "AT&T currently plans to begin trials of LTE technology this year, and to begin LTE deployment in 2011, matching industry time lines for widespread availability of compelling devices and supporting network equipment."

"Even as we look forward to LTE, 3G will be the predominant mobile broadband network technology worldwide for smartphones for the next few years," Stankey said. Â*"AT&T's strategy will deliver faster 3G speeds over the next two years, while also allowing us to build the foundation for the LTE future."

The 3G and LTE upgrade initiatives "follow a series of major enhancement projects in 2009 that have dramatically enhanced performance of AT&T's wireless network." Last year, the companies says it deployed five times the number of backhaul connections compared with 2008. Additionally, the company reported that in 2009 it deployed high-quality 850 MHz spectrum in hundreds of markets to support 3G services and added thousands of new cell sites to expand and enhance 3G coverage. Â*

"All told, in 2008 and through Q3 of 2009 AT&T invested approximately $19 billion toward wireless, with a focus on expanding and enhancing network capabilities, including network infrastructure, spectrum purchases and acquisitions," the company reported. It also claimed that "these efforts have resulted in AT&T continuing to deliver the nation's fastest 3G network, and in delivering 3G national call retainability of 98.92 percent, meaning that only 1.08 percent of calls are dropped nationwide, based on 3G-specific, internal data."

Can you hear me now?

At the same time, the company has still not directly addressed serious problems in New York City and San Francisco, which are both dealing with of large numbers of iPhone users while suffering from challenging density and topographical issues.

In the holiday quarter, Apple shipped an estimated 8 to 10 million additional iPhones, many of which are being plugged into AT&T's US network. While the company has promised to deploy its MicroCell 3G to help alleviate service holes in specific locations for its paying subscribers located in areas of poor reception, it is still limiting the appliance to just a few test markets around the country and refusing to comment on its future plans.

The Duke Nukem MicroCell perpetual beta

One reader reports, "I was visiting family over the holidays in San Diego, where they're 'testing' [the 3G MicroCell]. I went to the store and was very up front: I told them I was from out of town, and if it wasn't going to work when I got home that I didn't want one. They punched in my address and assured me it would work. And it did, for about a week. Apparently there was a bug that was allowing my address in Santa Clara to be accepted. They 'fixed' that, which bricked my MicroCell.

"Their response is that I must ship the unit back to the store in San Diego for a refund. They've been 'testing' these things for, what, nine months now? And now I feel like the kid in those bank commercials who is given a toy only to have it taken away by a boob in a suit with a fake smile on his face."


  • Reply 1 of 43
    lafelafe Posts: 252member
    Ding. Ding. Ding.

    This is what they were doing instead of bring regular ol' 3G service to my area, I guess.

    And what's with the extreme overuse of the term 'backhaul'? Is that this month's

    industry buzzword or something? Eww.
  • Reply 2 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,499member
    Reminds me of the whole "Mission Accomplished" sign fiasco...
  • Reply 3 of 43
    bartfatbartfat Posts: 432member
    Actually backhaul has nothing to do with the wireless. But it does connect the cell towers to the internet and vice versa. Anyway, nice to hear that they're doing that... but where's the real expansion? You know, the type of expansion that covers more cities than Verizon?.. or something to that effect. Which is why I stick to T-Mobile, b/c the coverage is just as good (or bad) as AT&T's, except that there aren't as many iPhones on the network
  • Reply 4 of 43
    ulfoafulfoaf Posts: 175member
    Houston was supposed to be upgraded. If so, I can't tell a difference. Doing a speed test depends ENTIRELY on from where you request the test. I get from 1.5Mb/s to .25 with Speed Test. You really can't tell what you're getting when contacting a particular server.
  • Reply 5 of 43
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    "That word, I do not think it means what you think ita means.?
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

    Reminds me of the whole "Mission Accomplished" sign fiasco...

  • Reply 6 of 43
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    I truly don't get why they're dragging their heels on the MicroCell devices.

    The only place I don't get really good reception is in my own damned home. Give me one of these and I'm a totally happy camper.

    They really are clueless.
  • Reply 7 of 43
    bbwibbwi Posts: 812member
    If voice calls are really that bad in NY and SF then why aren't other phones experiencing the same number of issues??? Why not switch to VoIP (Skype for iPhone) and see if the connections in those areas improve? Do their data connection timeout all the time too or something?
  • Reply 8 of 43
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Originally Posted by GQB View Post

    I truly don't get why they're dragging their heels on the MicroCell devices.

    The only place I don't get really good reception is in my own damned home. Give me one of these and I'm a totally happy camper.

    They really are clueless.

    Perhaps they don?t work so well.
  • Reply 9 of 43
    Big deal. The wireless connection speed doesn't matter all that much unless you decide to download a movie directly to the phone. For basic web browsing and such, anything over a 1.5 meg connection will not be noticeably faster. The issue comes with latency. Since web browsing is dealing with many relatively small files, the time it takes for data to start flowing makes more of a difference than the maximum data flow speed.

    The other issue is the backhaul of the towers. Getting a fast connection to the tower doesn't matter if the pipe from the tower to the internet is clogged. That's where a large portion of the slowdown issues occur.
  • Reply 10 of 43
    Just tried my first speed test in quite a while and got my highest result ever (on my 3GS):

    I'm in Austin.

    Test Date: Jan 5, 2010 5:35:13 PM

    Connection Type: Cellular

    Download: 2936 kbps

    Upload: 244 kbps

    Ping: 259 ms

  • Reply 11 of 43
    Now the entire country can have lousy 3G coverage from AT&T.
  • Reply 12 of 43
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,147member
    No change in Detroit area. Slow as ever (<500kbps).
  • Reply 13 of 43
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    Apple's iPhone 3GS, which shipped last summer, is already equipped to take advantage of the faster tier of 3G service.

    Crap. That means my 3G won't see any difference, anyway.
  • Reply 14 of 43
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    Originally Posted by GQB View Post

    Give me one of these and I'm a totally happy camper.

    not me. i refuse to pay for a microcell, then pay an ISP to carry its network traffic, just so I can get the coverage AT&T probably says I should already have in the first place. it would be different if they were giving them to folks free of charge, but they are not.
  • Reply 15 of 43
    They did what? At my home, I still have to use Edge. We do not even have 3G here...

    Zip Code 29626
  • Reply 16 of 43
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Notify us when you're finished upgrading your edge (the majority of the network) sites to 3G.
  • Reply 17 of 43
    galleygalley Posts: 971member
    Originally Posted by ptogel View Post

    They did what? At my home, I still have to use Edge. We do not even have 3G here...

    Zip Code 29626

    Yeah, I lose 3G service in Easley and Simpsonville. If you stay in Greenville, you're OK.
  • Reply 18 of 43
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,583member
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

    Perhaps they don?t work so well.

    I hope they have realized that the business model is a little off on them. I would think that proper picocells (company-owned infrastructure) is the way to go.

    When I lived in Hong Kong, most of the buildings had company-owned micro-cells in order to contend with the metal-pan ceilings and high densities. Even the elevator had an antenna. Today the picocells make much more sense for the majority of instances where they have the most problems (high density/rough terrain).

    Their MicroCell campaign has the problem of using up their frequencies with access limited to a purchaser-approved list of phones. Maybe allowing unfettered access, but crediting customers based on usage/QOS would be a better plan.
  • Reply 19 of 43
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

    "That word, I do not think it means what you think ita means.?

    I like how all tiers of service are rendered in a shade of blue, so you can't tell where there is Edge or 3G. Super job AT&T.
  • Reply 20 of 43
    clexmanclexman Posts: 150member
    Too bad its not exactly there yet. What they did is similar to hooking up an 802.11n router to a dial-up internet connection. Your phone may be connected to the cell tower at a higher speed, but the tower isn't hooked up to a faster internet connection! Ha, what a BS press release!
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