It almost makes you dizzy, trying to keep up with mobile network upgrades. AT&T, for example, has announced an upgrade to Long Term Evolution in the 2011 time frame. In the meantime, it says it will upgrade its network from the 7.2-Mbps HSPA standard to HSPA+, bringing speeds up to 14.4 Mbps by the end of 2010.

In 2009, AT&T had said it planned to offer HSPA 7.2 speeds in 25 of the nation’s 30 largest markets by the end of 2010. Obviously, the company is blowing by that forecast.

U.S. carriers are taking a number of steps to hike bandwidth on their networks. Sprint and Clearwire of course are building a fourth-generation network offering typical speeds of about 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps in the downlink and bursts up to 10 Mbps.

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T-Mobile USA expects to have its HSPA+ network running nationwide at speeds as high as 21 Mbps by the end of 2010 as well. The figures of merit might not be so important, as it can be difficult to pinpoint what bandwidth actualy is achievable at any specific location or time of day.

But T-Mobile executives have simply noted that its HSPA+ network is about three to five tmes faster than HSPA.

Verizon Wireless, now building the first LTE network in the United States, only promises speeds in the 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps range, or “10 times faster than 3G” typically provides.

All that bandwidth is important because, in the near term, wireless carriers are going to have to depend on wireless broadband accounts for the bulk of their revenue growth.

What really matters is what they do for an encore after the wireless broadband market is saturated.

At least right now, those new revenue sources will have to come from advertising, mobile e-commerce and sales of paid applications, none so centrally related to the core of the business as are “access” services, as has proven to be the case in the Japanese market.

In the Japanese market in 2008, 66 percent of mobile service provider data revenue came from mobile data access. About 21 percent came from mobile online commerce. About 11 percent of revenue comes from mobile services of some sort. About two percent comes from mobile advertising.

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