Few people think about the meaning of conventional terms, mainly – technical. We often use words like USB or HDMI, knowing what they mean but not even knowing how these acronyms are deciphered. Today we will talk about the term related to mobile communication, namely the HSPA protocol. It is not as well known as 3G/4G but is a whole part of wireless technology.

What is HSPA standard where it is used?

The evolution of mobile communication is aimed at improving the speed and quality of signal transmission. The third generation of the protocol,3G, is today the most common standard compatible with the vast majority of cell phones, including button phones. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to have high-speed access to the Internet, albeit not as good as on wired communication, but sufficient for conventional surfing and the organization of video and video streaming.

So, 3G networks, or rather, the part of them that uses the UMTS cellular standard, are based on the HSPA data protocol.

One of the first releases of the HSPA mobile network standard involved the possibility of transmitting data at 2 MB/sec. However, theoretical and practical indicators differed by almost an order of magnitude, which limited the ability of subscribers to visit websites and listen to music. You could only watch the video at speeds not exceeding 300 kb/sec. As the wired development was imperishable, the developers of 3GPP (a mobile standards promotion organization) introduced a new version of the protocol in 2006 with transmission speeds of up to 14.4 MB/s.

This meant that the HSPA standard, which was the basis of 3G, could already be used for full video streaming, network games, and fast downloading of large-sized files. High-Speed Packet Access technology consists of HSDPA (signal transmission from the base station to subscribers, or downlink) and HSUPA (uplink, signal transmission in the opposite direction). Usually, the network’s speed means downlink because the uplink is always smaller, in this case – 5.7 Mb/s. Without going into technical details, we note that it was possible to achieve a sharp increase in speed thanks to several advanced technologies, which consisted of increasing the volume of data transmitted in each package of pulses.

Further improvement of the protocol allowed to increase the speed of the uplink to 21.5 MB/s due to the further increase in the bandwidth of the data channels. This technology has been dubbed HSPA. The next round of technology development led to the emergence of the DC-HSPA standard, where the speed increased to 42.2 MB/s.

From all this, we can assume that HSPA is 3G, and the standard has nothing to do with 4G. This is only partly true since these evolutionary branches can be called transitional to fourth-generation networks. For example, HSPA is considered a 3.5G network, and DC-HSPA, a two-channel HSPA protocol, is classified as 3.75G networks, meaning that the standard is almost close to fourth-generation networks. At least at the speed of transmission.

HSPA Characteristics

The first-generation networks were in keeping with the zeitgeist – for those times, 10kb/s was quite a good indicator, given that the then cell phones almost did not go online. But the rapid development of technology led to the emergence of second-generation networks, which used several independent protocols. Some of them have survived to this day- for example, GPRS at speeds of up to 171 kb/sec and EDGE at twice the rate (384 kb/sec).

2G-enabled phones could already surf on text versions of sites (WAP technology, many should remember it). The proliferation of smartphones has forced developers to look for additional ways to increase speed. The development of the HSPA standard has allowed us to move to third-generation networks, which are currently the most common.

The maximum download speed under the HSPA protocol was 14.4 Mbps. Theoretically, this is enough to watch a video of good resolution on a small screen. The data discharge rate is less than 5.76 Mb/s, but the downlink is essential for ordinary users. However, in reality, the figures again were far from the maximum due to many limiting factors.

Theoretically, the advent of MIMO technology in 3G networks would have increased the speed more than twice. Still, it was not possible to implement the 64-AM and MIMO simultaneously, so the rate was increased relatively slightly to 21 MB/s in the HSPA’s standard.

But the breakthrough was not long in coming: in the eighth specification of the standard developed in 3GPP, called DC-HSDPA, the downlink speed was increased to 42 Mb/s, the uplink – to 11 Mb/s.

The HSPA protocol in its purest form and with later variations is supported by almost all mobile devices, enough presence in the specification of the 3G support device.

If you are unsure whether you will use the speeds available in 3G networks in a specific area – ask your provider. He will not refuse to provide you with a coverage card.

What’s the difference between HSPA and HSDPA?

The main difference is the speed indicators. HSPA has a top speed of 14.4 MB/sec, and HSPA’s has a top speed of 21.6 MB/sec. The difference is not so significant to worry about it if your phone only supports the first protocol. But such a smartphone is still to look – most of the cellular has long since switched to the standard HSPA, including many models of button devices, essentially not designed for the use of high-speed Internet.

But if you’re interested in what protocol supports your phone, then when doing things that require maximum speed (for example, when downloading a 3D file), try to find the device’s position, where the status bar will appear the symbol NI.

This will mean that the phone supports HSPA, and in this position, the pumping rate will increase significantly. Note that in 3G networks, the terrain is essential. The presence of artificial and natural barriers has a substantial impact on data transmission speed, so the best signal will always be in the open area.

Note that the two-channel implementation of HSPA’s has allowed increasing the theoretical speed limit to 42.2 Mb/s. Still, with the coverage here, things are even worse, and cellular operators are already fully deploying 4G networks and testing fifth-generation networks.

How relevant is the HSPA standard in 2021?

The development of technology is happening rapidly in almost all areas of life. Thirty-five years ago, the ability to carry a phone in your pocket was perceived as fantastic, but after 10 years, this technology has become a global brand. Today, third-generation networks are being actively supplanted by the 4G standard, but they have already prepared a shift. 5G networks provide just fantastic even today’s wired speed – up to 25GB/sec. This record figure was even exceeded during the test tests. Still, the introduction of this technology can be very protracted, as it involves the conversion of cellular transmitters and a considerable increase in their number.

It can be stated that today 4G coverage is present in large cities. In smaller settlements, such communication is not guaranteed, unlike 3G networks.

ATTENTION. All the speed indicators given here are theoretical. In practice, the speed is almost always lower. In cities, this is due to the presence of many obstacles that interfere with the transmission of the signal. The network also plays a role. In a remote area away from the relays, the speed drops due to the fading signal. Conditions near the cell tower and in open spaces will be ideal.

To conclude, we note that HSPA, despite the emergence of better protocols, will be able to hold its positions for several years. However, today it is worth thinking about purchasing a gadget that supports the 4G/5G network.

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