HSDPA: 7 Years Ahead Today

When looking into the future it's good to know the past as you can learn a lot for making predictions.

Let's apply this wisdom to the 3G network technology we currently use: I first used HSDPA in a real network back in February 2007 with a HSDPA category 12 Sierrawireless card. At the time, 1.8 MBit/s was the latest and greatest. Since then, networks have been upgraded to category 6, which allows 3.6 MBit/s in theory, and many networks are now category 8 capable with theoretical top speeds of 7.2 MBit/s. Going to 7.2 MBit/s has mostly happened in 2009. But when do you think cat 8 made it to the 3GPP standards? Surely it must have been fairly recently!?

No, not at all, HSDPA category 8 was already specified way back in 2002 in Release 5 of the 3GPP standards. More specifically, category 8 we are using today was first mentioned in V5.1.0 of TS 25.306 of June 2002. That was 6 and a half years ago! These days, 3GPP is working on Release 9…! It looks like that release of the specification was worked on for quite some time as cat 12, which was used for the first devices that came on the market (see above) was only added in V5.2.0 of September 2002 and 3GPP has continued changing the document up until 2009.

I think HSDPA is not an exception but fits a general pattern. From standards to live network, things take around 5 years. UMTS itself is no exception. First specified in Release 99, I got my first 3G phone in December 2004. I was not a bleeding edge user but surely an early adopter. Again, about 5 years from standards to live network.

P.S.: Yes, I know that some operators have announced that they've already deployed HSPA+ with 21 or even 28 MBit/s. In practice however, it's only a couple of base stations in a few select towns.

3 thoughts on “HSDPA: 7 Years Ahead Today”

  1. *few* BTSs? not sure about that; Here in the great white north, Bell announced a large HSPA/HSPA+ 21Mbs network covering a 93% of the population: http://network.bell.ca/en/largest.html
    not sure if this URL works, but it shows the HSPA+ network coverage (I will email the picture separately) http://www.bell.ca/support/PrsCSrvWls_Cvg_Travel.page?language=en&region=ON&languageToggle=true&content=/resources/templates/PrsCSrvWls_WLS_2_E_reg.jsp&metaKey=PrsCSrvWls_Content?INT=MOB_LearnTxt_MICRO_network_Mass_110609_MB_en

    I think Rogers is in a similar position with a fair amount of HSPA+. Ok, Canada is small I know, but things are progressing on HSPA+. TMO US also very aggressive to launch nationwide (but in 2010)

  2. Hi Ed,

    yes, HSPA+ is comming quite quickly. Bell says HSPA/HSPA+ so I wonder how many of their NodeB’s are upgraded so far and have the backhaul to support it.

    I guess in a year from now, most major operators will have made great strides at upgrading their network and backhaul.

    I guess Telstra in Australia is also pushing quite hard.


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