HSPA+ is gaining momentum as a stepping stone on the path to LTE. The Japanese operator eMobile has just announced that it has launched HSPA+ services in the country, using kit supplied by Huawei.
eMobile is promising mobile data speeds up to 21.6Mbps on the downlink and covers cities such as Hokkaido, Sendai, Niigata, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Nagasaki. The service provider will offer internet access, streaming media and VoIP and will connect the end user with a Huawei supplied data card.
So why have certain operators opted for HSPA+ instead of migrating directly to LTE? NTT DoCoMo was the first operator in the world to launch W-CDMA and the network is not due an upgrade. W-CDMA was deployed by Softback in 2003 and Other operators such as Softbank deployed in 2003 and eMobile only launched its 3G service in 2007. These operators cannot justify a major overhaul of the network to the shareholders, where as DoCoMo can say that that they have made a good return on their investment and its time to reinvest for the future with LTE.
eMobile customers have reported congestion problems in some locations at peak times and the problems are only going to get worse. HSPA+ works out as a cheaper option for operator that needs to upgrade its network in order to cope with the ever increasing amount of traffic. LTE will just have to wait for its turn in these sorts of cases.