AT&T moves toward 90% HSPA rollout completion by 2012, but whither New York?

Earlier this year, AT&T announced its 7.2 Mbps HSPA upgrade, as a part of a plan to improve it wireless data services. The plan included the addition of new cell sites, more 3G spectrum, and thousands of additional fiber backhaul connections on old sites to help manage AT&T's massive wireless traffic driven by the popular and data hungry iPhone.

Today, the wireless network operator announced the HSPA 7.2 rollout will begin in six major US markets this year: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami, where six compatible handsets and two LaptopConnect cards are expected to be available to customers.

AT&T's roadmap predicts the deployment will cover 25 of the 30 largest US markets by the end of 2010, and then 90% of its existing 3G network footprint by the end of 2011. AT&T's 3G coverage includes 341 US markets, so that means HSPA 7.2 will be in 307 markets in about 30 months.

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The top 25 U.S. markets: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, and Denver.

New York, however, is larger than every other city on the list by multiples, and AT&T has not said when deployment there will begin. AT&T's President of Telecom Operations John Starkey told The Wall Street Journal today that New York has passed the worst of its 3G congestion issues, but the addition of "load bearing" 850 MHz 3G spectrum was only finished last week, and the company's plans for HSPA 7.2 in New York have not been expressly announced.

Obviously the biggest cities take the most time. According to AT&T's plans, it will take about 16 months to complete 25 of the biggest cities, but only 30 months to complete as many as 309 smaller ones. Yet, If only 83% of the biggest markets are going to be finished by next year, it is possible that New York won't receive its HSPA 7.2 upgrade until the smaller cities have already gotten theirs, two years from now.

That's a lot of time for iPhone developers to come up with new ways to eat up bandwidth.

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