What is the Difference Between HSPA+ and HSPA?

A. Noel

High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, the most widely used mobile broadband technology, has made it possible to download more data faster on third generation (3G) mobile broadband networks. The mobile telephony protocol improves the speed and capacity of current wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) wireless broadband networks by more efficiently using the broadband spectrum. Evolved HSPA (HSPA+) uses the spectrum more efficiently, allowing for higher peak data rates and fewer delays in data transmission. These key differences between HSPA and HSPA+ generally make the second a more efficient choice for 3G networks.

HSPA+ provides faster data rates than HSPA on 3G mobile broadband networks.
HSPA+ provides faster data rates than HSPA on 3G mobile broadband networks.

The main advance in HSPA over older technologies is improvement in the protocols, or communications rules, that facilitate the movement of voice and data packets between hand-held devices and base stations. Communications network engineers work to improve the speed, amount of data per channel, number of channels, error detection, and methods of data encoding and decoding. As a result of these more efficient protocols, users of broadband-hungry multimedia services can download content quicker. Users, for example, are less likely to experience the delayed buffering of video that was indicative of older generation air interface protocols.

A HSPA modem and USB cord.
A HSPA modem and USB cord.

HSPA is the combination of high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) and high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) protocols. It downloads at a peak data rate of 14 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads at 5.8 Mbps. Specifically, it optimizes the use of the WCDMA radio bandwidth by increasing the transmission rate, sharing channel transmission, shortening the time between transmission intervals, and improving the modulation and amplitude of the signal.

The plus in HSPA+ signifies an even faster and more efficient use of the spectrum. This technology provides peak download rates of up to 56 Mbps and peak uploads of 22 Mbps. The most significant advance in HSPA+ is that it can operate on an all-Internet protocol (IP) architecture — the evolutionary goal of mobile telephony. An IP architecture makes more direct connections within the broadband network, helping to lower the cost of moving a megabyte of data and reduce latency — the delays in information processing typically unnoticeable to humans. The result is an always-on connection and improved response times.

HSPA and HSPA+ technology are based on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), used by 80% of carriers worldwide. Network providers are upgrading to this technology, and continuing to improve the speed and capacity of high-speed data transmissions. Handset makers are keeping pace by introducing a broad range of compatible cell phones and smart phones.

Voice and data packets are shared between cell phones and tower antennas through HSPA and HSPA+ technology.
Voice and data packets are shared between cell phones and tower antennas through HSPA and HSPA+ technology.

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Discussion Comments


our phone will operate on the same networks as a cellphone network which is HSPA+ capable, however you will not achieve the HSPA+ download speeds (>337Mbps). The Pearl 3G 9100 was released early 2010 with HSDPA capability which only provides (>41Mbps) capability.

In practice though, you will be lucky to even get 41Mbps download speeds with any phone! It's more marketing spin than anything useable.


so will my blackberry pearl 3g 9100 work with hspa+ networks? i know if it works it won't get the optimal speed but I'm just wondering if it will work.

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