Though 4G-Long Term Evolution and WiMax-garners most of the headlines, it is not the only way to increase the speed and efficiency of mobile communications.
The advances in the next generation of 3G technology, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), are significant. The GSM Association said this week that more than 9 million HSPA subscribers are being added every month, far more than the 5.5 million new monthly subscribers a year ago. North America accounts for 1.3 million of the new subscribers, while 3 million each are being added in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The group says there now are 321 HSPA networks in 120 countries; 285 of them are live, and they serve about 167.5 million connections to more than 1,600 devices.
HSPA has a distinct advantage over 4G: In most cases, it is a software upgrade for carriers, while LTE and WiMax require far more labor-intensive base station change-outs. This goes a long way to explaining its popularity. WiFi Networking News reports that T-Mobile is rolling out two forms of advanced 3G service. The carrier now offers 3G services in 240 cities, home to 170 million potential subscribers. By the end of this year, 200 million people will have access to T-Mobile's HSPA and HSPA+ services. HSPA runs at 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) and HSPA+ clocks in at 21 Mbps.
The story says T-Mobile is moving quickly to the faster HSPA+ approach. AT&T and Verizon simultaneously are moving on LTE and HSPA; Sprint is betting on WiMax through its ownership position in Clearwire, which announced that it is getting an infusion of $1.564 billion from existing partners. The point is that T-Mobile's aggressive moves will provide subscribers with speedier services earlier than 4G and less aggressive 3G initiatives.
Another November announcement was made by Bell Canada. existing 3G Evolution Data Optimized (EVDO) network. The company said the HSPA network supports 40 mobile devices, including 18 smartphones.
AT&T also made an HSPA announcement this week. The carrier said the USBConnect Lightening, a connection device designed by Sierra Wireless, will link subscribers to the carrier's HSPA network. Lightening, which will be sold at retail, online and through business channels, will be available on Nov. 22. The press release reiterates AT&T's HSPA plan: Service will launch in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C., by the end of the year. Service will be available in 25 of the 30 largest markets in the country by the second quarter of next year and will reach 90 percent of the carrier's existing 3G network by the end of 2011.
There is a lot of good news here. With significant moves from providers of LTE, WiMax, HSPA and HSPA+, cellular and wireless subscribers have an array of attractive choices that will continue to expand for the foreseeable future.