T-Mobile USA to upgrade network and move to HSPA+ next year
Published: 16 September, 2009
T-Mobile USA is the latest carrier to promise a significant boost to its network speeds, via an HSPA upgrade next year. It will start to deploy the 7.2Mbps (peak download) version of the standard, emulating AT&T, which recently named the first six cities that would get the enhancement. TMo's me-too move comes amid mounting speculation that its parent Deutsche Telekom is seeking a merger or joint venture with Sprint (though Sprint itself denied this week that they were in talks). Either way, DT has promised repeatedly in recent months that it would invest "many millions" in its US subsidiary, and in the wake of its UK JV deal with Orange, it upped this figure to "billions", (perhaps looking to divert some of the UK savings across the Atlantic?)
T-Mobile USA was the last of the major US cellcos to embark on 3G, only acquiring spectrum less than two years ago, but this has given it the advantage of installing a modern network and learning from the experiences of others - and having a platform readymade for HSPA. All the same, it is only moving to the 7.2Mbps, when it could, presumably, have tried to leapfrog AT&T by implementing 14.4Mbps, now becoming mainstream in Europe, stimulating a broader ecosystem of devices. Indeed, many cellcos are moving to HSPA+ in 2009-2010, targeting peaks of 21Mbps (and, at Telstra, 42Mbps via a multicarrier update).
Cole Brodman, CTO of T-Mobile USA, did map a more aggressive route to HSPA+ than his competitor (or his European sister company, which has been dismissive of this technology, looking to bypass it and move to LTE when necessary). He expects to start introducing 21Mbps HSPA+ in select, high demand markets in 2010, in a parallel roll-out with 7.2Mbps nationwide.
In August, TMo said that about 176 cities and 121m people were covered by its 3G network in the US and it said it would cover 200m pops by year end, with an additional 100 cities.
Also outlining LTE plans in the US is flat rate, prepaid carrier MetroPCS, which says it will go live in its first major metro markets late next year. It will use Ericsson equipment to create an overlay for its CDMA network and is already working on a smartphone with Samsung, it says (though most players, including Qualcomm, do not expect chips for phones to be ready until at least 2011, so the promise of a dual-mode phone in 2010 may be a PR swipe at Verizon Wireless, which has pledged a year later).
North of the border, Canadian carrier Rogers Wireless is moving more quickly than its US cousins, announcing the commercial availability of 21Mbps HSPA+ in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.