As Need For Mobile Speed Grows, 3.5G Networks Boom


There are 58 live HSPA+ wireless broadband networks across the world, with 19 of them launched in the first half of 2010, according to research by Wireless Intelligence. HSPA+ is currently the fastest form of 3G wireless broadband technology, and is generally viewed as the final stop before a migration to Long Term Evolution (LTE). Another 43 carriers are likely to make this upgrade, which would bring the total to over 100 HSPA+ networks.

HSPA+ is an upgrade to the current generation of 3G technologies, and is also known as Evolved HSPA. It can provide downstream connectivity of up to 84 megabits per second (Mbps) and upstream connections of 21 Mbps. While the most common version of HPSA+ (64QAM) has a top theoretical speed of around 21 Mbps, in some cases, phone companies (like Japan’s EMobile) are using different kinds of technology tricks (dual carrier, MIMO) to boost this speed by up to four times.

The HSPA+ upgrades have come at a breathtaking pace. In February 2009, Australia’s Telstra became the first network to go live with the HSPA+ technology. In the US, two large GSM-based service providers, AT&T (s T) and T-Mobile USA are betting on HSPA+ before making the eventual leap to LTE. Neither has introduced their first real HSPA+ phone.

While T-Mobile has started rolling out its network, AT&T is likely to turn on the upgrade by end of 2010. Other large carriers that are likely to launch HSPA+ based networks include SingTel (Singapore), SoftBank (Japan), O2 and E-Plus in Germany.

“The wide deployment of HSPA networks in most markets will mean that HSPA+ is likely to be the fastest network available to most subscribers for several years to come, especially as most operators are still waiting for LTE spectrum to be auctioned and allocated,” noted Matt Ablott, analyst with Wireless Intelligence.

This is essential, as the consumer demand for data is growing worldwide. Ericsson (s eric) noted today that mobile broadband currently accounts for only 10 percent of total mobile subscriptions, but an increasing majority of the traffic. Ericsson estimates that global mobile data has nearly tripled in the last year, growing more than 10 times faster than voice to reach 225,000 terabytes per month.

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Dilip Andrade

Just a small geographic quibble with your map. I assume you are highlighting the countries with HSPA+ networks, and not the reach of the networks. In that case, all the islands above Canada (other than Greenland) should be coloured in.

If these islands aren’t coloured in because there isn’t HSPA+ coverage there, then the portion of the map of that is coloured in (and I’m sure the map of the US as well) would have to be redrawn.

As small niggle, but I do think it’s only fair that all of the country is coloured in together.


HSDPA+ is just a remote firmware upgrade sent to all the base station cell towers. Basically every HSDPA market can rather easily upgrade to support HSDPA+ by just remotely upgrading the firmware in those existing towers.

HSDPA+ increases maximum bandwidth, but it does not increase the capacity. The way it works, as far as I understoof, is just that it allows the receiver to connect to more towers and more frequencies in the same spectrum at the same time and thus accelerate the transfer. But if many users are in the same area using each a lot of bandwidth, then it won’t matter if you are using HSDPA+ or normal HSDPA, it only speeds things up slightly if you are in an area alone in the middle of the night taking all the cell towers bandwidth all for yourself.

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