AT&T 3G Wireless Network

external image AT%26T_logo.svg external image att3glogo.jpg


Our topic is about AT&T's 3G Network.


What is a 3G Network?

Third-generation or 3G, also known as IMT 2000, is a family of radio interfaces which evolved from previous generations to facilitate wider range of services and advanced network capacity. According to the definition of ITU (International Telecommunications Union), 3G includes the following technologies:
  • EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution)
  • CDMA 2000 (Code Division Multiple Access)
  • UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)
  • DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications)
  • WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access

While the first successful commercial release of 3G technology in the United States happened due to Verizon wireless in July 2002, the very first attempt of giving the United States citizens 3G networking technology was made by Monet Mobile Networks even though the company eventually failed and is no longer in operation. The first instance of what is considered 3G technology today was created and released by a company in Japan named NTT Docomo on October 1, 2001 while their beta was released May of that same year. (wikipedia-3g)
The 3G market has expanded so exponentially since October 2001 that it is estimated that one-fifth of the population of the world that own cell phones or other mobile technology have access to speeds of third generation networking technology or better. (mobil-thinking)


What is 3G capable of?

It enables network operators to offer subscribers a wider range of advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through increased bandwidth, transfer rates and spectral efficiency. 3G networks are intended to facilitate smart phone advanced capabilities such as the following.
  • Higher data speed
  • Enhanced audio and video streaming
  • Video-conferencing
  • High speed Web and WAP
  • IPTV (TV through the Internet)

How fast is 3G Wireless?

The 3G network provides a platform for distributing converged fixed, mobile, voice, data, and internet and multimedia services. 3G speeds vary upon application as demonstrated below:
  • Downstream: 14.4 Mbps
  • Upstream: 5.8 Mbps
  • Fixed: 2 Mbps
  • Mobile: 348 Kbps

AT&T has biggest 3g network, compared against T-mobile, Sprint, Verizon


The crew over at PCWorld ran a fairly in-depth series of tests across 13 major cities in the US, comparing 3G download and upload speeds and network reliability across AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. The hands down winner? AT&T.
AT&T’s download speed averaged nearly double that of the competition, and the same goes for upload. From Baltimore to Seattle, AT&T rarely dipped below 1,000kbps, while the competition rarely climbed above 1,000kbps.
Average reliability (as tested by continuous 1-minute performance tests) leveled out at 92% for T-Mobile and Verizon, with AT&T and Sprint coming in just a little bit higher at 94%. This is a huge change from when PCWorld ran a similar test 8 months ago, when AT&T’s reliability was puttering out somewhere around 64%.
Of course, this is solely a performance test. Other important metrics — such as coverage maps — don’t come into play. Either way, keep it up, AT&T – we (and everyone else on the Internet) may give you flack at every opportunity, but it certainly seems like things are on the up and up.

Today's 3G Wireless

AT&T is in the process of updating its network to 4G. However, some improvements have been made to the 3G side of the network. The network has been upgraded to reach HSPA, or HSPA+ speeds. HSPA is an addition to the 3GPP standards. HSPA+ increases the downlink data speeds up to 56 Mbit/s up from the current level of 14 Mbit/s. Although, in practice, speeds rarely exceed 26 Mbit/s. The uplink speeds increase as well up to 22 Mbit/s, however, in theory (again) rarely rise above 5.8Mbit/s. The ping times from phone to carrier and the latency of transmission decreases as well. AT&T has upgraded their networks to the newest version of HSPA, states at HSPA 14.4, completed in 2010.

Unlike WiMax (another high speed wireless network), or the new 4G networks, HSPA+ upgrades take little more than a software upgrade. This provides quite an advantage to 3G and HSPA+ networks. Without a need to replace to build new hardware, millions of dollars can be saved with a simple software upgrade, for a large speed increase.

AT&T still advertises their network as the fastest 3G network in America, covering the largest number of people, and being the network with the most uptime.

AT&T's 3G Wireless in Tallahassee

According to AT&T corporate stores around Tallahassee, the 3G network in Tallahassee is supplemented by Comcast's high speed network. The network in Tallahassee currently uses HSPA+ technology to deliver the fastest speeds possible.


Edge- An outdated technology that was modified to fit today’s networks in order to increase network speed and originally introduced in 2003 by it being used in AT&T’s 3G network (Edge-wikipedia)
CDMA 2000- A 2G (second generation) compatible 3G mobile technology that allows the transfer of data and calls throughout a mobile network. (CDMA-wikipedia)
UMTS- A 3G mobile technology family that unlike its rival the CDMA 2000 is not backward compatible and has the same tasks as the CDMA 2000 but has a greater bandwidth and efficiency. (UMTS-wikipedia)
DECT- A mobile standard that originated in Europe that is meant for cordless phones that eventually was also adopted by the US but had to be modified slightly to the DECT 6.0 in order to work with US systems. (DECT-wiki)
WIMAX- An acronym that stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. It is trademarked by a broadband alternative company to DSL or cable that allows up to 1 gigabit per second transfer rate. (WIMAX-wiki)
Spectral efficiency- The bandwidth transmission rate for communication companies (Spect- wiki)
WAP- The standard for information transmission rates that mobile web browsers must match if not surpass in speed. (WAP- wiki)
Downstream- Data that is received by the customer while using the internet (DSTREAM-wiki)
Upstream- Data that is sent by the customer through the internet that is faster than Downstream rates due to uploading large amounts of data (USTREAM-wiki)
HSPA- An acronym which stands for High Speed Packet Access that improves the performance of the WCDMA. The WCDMA is the set of air transmissions standards for a 3G network. (HSPA-wiki)
3GPP- An effort between multiple companies that resulted in a worldwide standard for 3G networks that also includes internet and radio transmission standards. Stands for the third generation Partnership project. (3GPP- wiki)
Ping- The testing and timing of internet data transfer speeds for one specific host or customer by the network company. (Ping-wiki)

Web Resources:

(AT&T Wireless-wikipedia)
(3G Network -
(Best 3G Network - TechCrunch)

Related links:

AT&Ts main site

AT&T's Wireless broadband (3G) info