This is my personal favorite mobile technology that’s not an Android product in, well, forever. Popularly known as HSPA or HSDPA or HSPA+, it’s what you’re using when your Android phone shows a little “H” up by the signal-bars readout.

Before I dive in, I should freely admit that I understand very little about 2G and 3G and 4G and the forest of acronyms that surround them. But I’m a damn heavy mobile-data user who travels widely, and thus I have some claim to connaisseurship in this space.

Anyhow, here are the good things about HSPA.

It Works Everywhere · Specifically, in my experience, Canada, the US, Japan, China, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and Germany.

It also works beautifully at our cabin on Keats Island, which is has consequently, starting in 2011, been Internet-enabled.

It’s Telco-agnostic · If your phone does “3G”, well, it might be tied to some particular carrier’s frequencies; in the US people sometimes talk about the “T” (T-Mobile) and “A” (AT&T) bands. And I hear rumblings on the horizon that the much-ballyhooed LTE may suffer from similar pathologies.

My HSPA devices seem to hop around and latch cheerfully onto whatever network is handy.

It’s Fast Enough · I know, everything is supposed to be irrelevant in the face of the mighty LTE, but damn it, on a decent HSPA connection I can run videoconferences over VPN, or feed WiFi to a computer where I’m doing email while listening to a hockey game on a Vancouver radio station’s Web feed, or upload 300K pictures to this blog fast enough to Just Not Worry.

I’ve never carried around an LTE device yet, but it’s going to have an uphill struggle impressing me.

Anyhow, whoever it was that designed HSPA, and whoever it was that built the HSPA radios in the devices I’ve been using recently: Thank you!

[Colophon: Published over HSPA while listening to Google Music over HSPA and uploading pictures for another blog piece over HSPA, with interruptions for email and Twitter over HSPA.]



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Mar 06 2012, at 23:48)

The T & A bands, huh? Figures.

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From: Ravi (Mar 06 2012, at 23:54)

HSPA is wonderful, but I suspect you're praising your pentaband Galaxy Nexus (one of only a few pentaband phones, including the Nokia N9) rather than HSPA itself.

Both T-Mobile and AT&T offer HSPA networks, but that doesn't let their customers ignore the frequency differences between them. HSPA access seems plentiful overseas because people with either a T-Mobile or an AT&T phone can get it in most countries via an operator with a 2100 MHz HSPA network (which is the international band most North American phones get). Nevertheless, they can run into trouble if the best coverage is provided by a 900MHz network.

Similarly, travelers going to the US often get in trouble because their phones only support 900 MHz and 2100 MHz networks, instead of the 850/1900 MHz AT&T network or the 1700 MHz T-Mobile network. Even when their phone supports a US network they need to get service from the correct US operator for HSPA support (except for the few lucky people with pentaband phones, of course).

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From: Gabriel Brown (Mar 07 2012, at 00:47)

I agree. The origins of HSPA go back more than a decade. What we're getting now is the fruit of years of investment and brain-power. Great isn't it.

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From: Matt Ginzton (Mar 07 2012, at 12:00)

Like Ravi said: HSPA *is* 3G, and is not any more telco-agnostic than other flavors of 3G, and your description of LTE's and 3G's "pathologies" applies equally well to HSPA.

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From: Dave (Mar 08 2012, at 05:29)

You forgot one: It doesn't burn through your 1,850 mAh battery in 10 minutes.

To be fair, that's not an innate advantage and LTE devices will improve, but for right now, it's a huge factor.

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March 06, 2012
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