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What is an HSDPA Network?

By Adrem Siratt
Updated May 17, 2024
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High-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) is a mobile telephony protocol. An HSDPA network uses a combination of different channels that allows users to achieve connection speeds that are much faster than previous protocols. The quality of the signal is a primary factor in how fast the user's connection is.

An HSDPA network provides a variety of features not available through other types of networks. The primary advantage is in its ability to give users a fast and reliable wireless connection in locations where they are able to receive cell phone signal. This is also a downside to the network, as it may prevent users from using it within a building in some areas.

Another advantage to an HSDPA network is the speed of the connection. An HSDPA network can obtain speeds as high as 84 megabits per second (Mbit/s). This would enable a user to download a feature length film in as little as one minute. Even the slower HSDPA networks allow for download speeds several times faster than dial-up.

Users may take advantage of the fast connection speed to create a Wi-Fi® network for their local area. Using an HSDPA router, users may create a connection that can be accessed by any computer with a standard 802.11 Wi-Fi® card. This can be extremely cost effective for users who will need to access the connection through multiple computers.

Many users may worry that an HSDPA network has a latency too high to be usable for many applications, such as gaming or video conferencing. The HSDPA protocol was created in order to maximize both the speed and latency of a connection. As a result, the typical latency for many HSDPA networks has been found to be between 80 milliseconds and 120 milliseconds. This latency is low enough that the vast majority of gamers and video conference software users would not notice a difference compared to wired connections.

The advantages of using an HSDPA network make it not only a viable option but also a necessary choice for many users. The speed of many wired connections are often comparable to the speed of HSDPA. This makes it an appealing alternative for users seeking to replace their wired connection. There are routers that use the HSDPA network and allow users to plug their land line phones into the router. This essentially enables the user to utilize the high quality digital network when making phone calls.

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Discussion Comments

By starrynight — On Aug 01, 2011

@Monika - A friend of mine has a 3G internet hotspot. We went on one of those websites once that lets you test the upload and download speed.

One thing I noticed is that the speed fluctuates a lot. I guess it probably wouldn't make much of a difference, depending on what you're doing. If you were just surfing the internet, fluctuating network speed wouldn't be a big problem. However, for something like video conferencing I could see it being a big deal.

By Monika — On Jul 31, 2011

I had 3G internet at my old apartment for awhile. I believe it utilized an HSDPA network. I was always impressed with the speed, especially compared to my former cable internet. Also, we were able to set up a wi-fi network for the apartment with no problem.

By Charred — On Jul 30, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - Actually, I think what the article is describing is the technology that already exists in the 3G networks for cell phones.

I don’t believe that 84 megabits per second is the norm, it’s more like the optimal speed available. Most people on the 3G network are getting something like 3 megabits per second or 6 megabits per second, which is still fast enough for cellular networks.

Speed aside, one thing that makes transfer of data over cell phones faster than over desktops is the unique customization of the data for mobile networks. For example, there are websites that are mobile enabled and therefore load faster on a cell phone.

The same is true for video I would think; I think there are video formats that are streamlined for mobile applications, making them faster to load. That’s something you have to take into account, not just the raw speed numbers.

By SkyWhisperer — On Jul 29, 2011

A friend of mine watches movies on his mobile phone when he is traveling. He uses one of those services that streams movies and TV shows online.

I don’t know what his connection speed is or what connection protocol he uses.

However, I imagine that if he has this HSDPA network he could probably download tons of movies in hours, with little or absolutely no buffering. I mean, the speed of this network is amazing.

I think the highest Internet connection speed available in our area, through cable, is something like 12 megabits per second (or maybe there is a higher tier for business users that will get closer to 20 or 30 megabits for second).

However, the 84 megabits per second mentioned in the article is mind blowing in my opinion.

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