T-Mobile to skip HSPA+ and wants LTE by 2010
Published: 6 November, 2008
In the teeth of a recession, operators will face a capex squeeze but virtually no let-up in demand for mobile broadband. This will drive many to try to eke out the maximum performance from their existing networks, which has led to new levels of interest in HSPA and its successor HSPA+ - and vendor fears that LTE investments would be delayed. But T-Mobile International is one operator defying that wisdom and calling for LTE to be commercialized in time for its roll-out timeframe of 2010.
T-Mobile is the fourth major cellco to take this stance, along with China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo and Verizon Wireless (plus an early test program from Vodafone, which will also use HSPA+ and WiMAX). The German-owned cellco's chief technology officer, Joachim Horn, said at this week's Financial Times World Telecoms Conference in London that T-Mobile would not deploy HSPA+ (also known as HSPA Evolution) to get more out of its 3G network and would instead move straight on to LTE. "If I need to invest into more hardware, I think it's better to start early with LTE. LTE is a more future oriented technology," Horn told Unstrung at the conference.
So T-Mobile will pursue HSPA only as long as there is no hardware upgrade required, which means it will only reach the 14.4Mbps peak speed of the latest release of HSDPA - a software-only option on the infrastructure side that is now being adopted by some cellcos along with the uplink enhancement of HSUPA. But HSPA+ does need hardware changes, because it uses MIMO smart antenna arrays to reach a downlink peak of 28.8Mbps or higher - although it does not require new spectrum or network layout, and is likely to represent far lower capex investment than a brand new network like LTE or WiMAX. These all-IP, flat networks, however, promise far lower opex costs than current technologies.
T-Mobile expects to go live with its first test LTE networks in 2010, though it has not specified which territories. It also hopes to use the TDD strand of the standard, which is largely based on Chinese developments, in its TDD spectrum to improve performance and economics in heavily data-driven applications.