While 4G is the topic of the day (or week), leaders in the GSM community are quick to remind everyone that 3G still has legs – lots of them.
The majority of mobile operators have chosen HSPA and LTE as the pathway to 4G, points out Chris Pearson, president of 3G Americas. While markets exist where new entrants are making decisions as to which type of technology they’ll pick, for the most part, “we don’t look at it as a battle against them (WiMAX),” Pearson says. “Each of us has our own story to tell.”
While LTE is coming, HSPA and HSPA+ compete very well with today’s WiMAX, he says. In the United States, AT&T is in more than 350 markets with 3G, and T-Mobile USA offers 3G in 200 cities. “HSPA and HSPA+ have a long runway ahead,” he adds. “You can talk about the future and we are a huge supporter of LTE as the technology of choice, but we want to make the audience aware that HSPA and HSPA+ will be leading 3G” for the foreseeable future.
With the exception of Verizon Wireless, which is pursuing LTE with a legacy CDMA network, most operators that have the option of rolling with HSPA and HSPA+ before moving to LTE are choosing that route, he says.
A white paper by Rysavy Research released last week explains the opportunity afforded to GSM-HSPA operators via the 3GPP roadmap to HSPA+. The report notes that depending on the features implemented, HSPA+ can exceed the capabilities of IEEE 802.16e-2005 (Mobile WiMAX Release-1) in the same amount of spectrum.
Evolving HSPA to exploit available radio technologies can significantly enhance its performance capabilities and extend the life of sizable operator HSPA infrastructure investments, the report says. Techniques include advanced receivers, MIMO, Continuous Packet Connectivity, Higher-Order Modulation and One Tunnel Architecture, many of which are included in the standardization of 3GPP Release 7 and Release 8.
Also last week, AT&T announced details of its rollout plans for HSPA 7.2, providing a considerable speed boost to its network in six major U.S. cities. The upgrade should be seen by the end of this year in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. That initiative is being supported by an ongoing deployment of additional backhaul capacity to cell sites.
AT&T plans to deploy HSPA 7.2 in 25 of the nation’s 30 largest markets by the end of 2010, reaching about 90 percent of its existing 3G network footprint by the end of 2011.
That compares with Verizon Wireless’ plans to commercially launch LTE in up to 30 markets in 2010, with full nationwide coverage in 2013. AT&T says it expects to have six HSPA 7.2-compatible smartphones in its portfolio by the end of this year, as well as new LaptopConnect cards, while LTE devices are still in development. AT&T plans to begin trials of LTE in 2010, with deployment in 2011.
Filed Under: Infrastructure