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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AT&T plans to double its 3G network capacity

No service
Many iPhone users complain about AT&T's service -- or lack thereof. Credit: dbrulz123 at Flickr.

It's a common complaint among iPhone users: The device is great, but the much-heralded 3G network, provided by AT&T, needs work. Now, it seems AT&T may be listening.

AT&T is testing increased download speeds on its 3G network, according to spokesman Geoff Mordock. The news first emerged in an interview with Scott McElroy, AT&T Mobility vice president of technology realization, in Telephony Online. The tests, if implemented, would bring the theoretical maximum speed to 7.2 megabits per second -- double the current maximum speed.

AT&T is also increasing network capacity by adding new cell sites and nearly doubling the total network capacity in most markets via an additional spectrum at 850 MHz, according to Mordock. That frequency makes it easier to get coverage inside buildings. Network capacity determines how much information can be sent over the network, including calls and data connections.

AT&T has come under fire lately for its sluggish 3G speeds. It was sued in March for promising faster 3G speeds than were available, the latest in a long line of quibbles over 3G speed. The plaintiff in the March lawsuit said he could connect to the 3G network only periodically.

The news about the increased speeds comes at a strategically beneficial time to AT&T: last week, reports emerged that the wireless company was trying to extend its exclusive relationship with Apple until 2011.

-- Alana Semuels