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High-speed packet access (HSPA) refers to a set of technologies that came about as a result of enhancements to wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) systems. HSPA is composed of the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) protocol and the High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) protocol. It features peak data rates of up to 14 Mbps downlink and up to 5.7 Mbps uplink.
HSPA is usually considered to be a 3.5G technology because it substantially improves on 3G standards. It is very suitable for mobile Web browsing, file downloads and VoIP. With its high data speeds, HSPA also plays a key role in providing mobile broadband capabilities to wireless carriers.
As more users shift from low-end feature phones to more advanced smartphones, wireless operators no longer focus on just call and text services. Rather, they are now offering data plans that feature a wide array of multimedia services, making high-speed wireless technologies like HSPA more relevant.
When wireless carriers upgrade their systems from WCDMA to HSPA, they need to remember that the usage behaviors of HSPA users are largely different from WCDMA users, who are more focused on voice services, while HSPA users are more data hungry.
Furthermore, because users will be downloading applications, browsing Web pages, or watching streaming video, traffic will be more concentrated in the downlink than in the uplink. This is the reason why high-speed downlink packet access is normally deployed earlier than high-speed uplink packet access.