T-Mobile Demos 42Mbit/s HSPA+ in NYC

T-Mobile US Inc. demonstrated its new 42Mbit/s 3G network upgrade in New York City, promising data cards as the service starts to arrive in the first half of the year.

T-Mobile USA CTO Neville Ray, speaking at the operator's investor day in New York City Thursday, said that the operator will start to offer 42Mbit/s cards in the first half of the year and smart phones in the second half of the year.

T-Mobile currently runs a 21Mbit/s service that covers 200 million people in the U.S., which the operator is marketing as "America's largest 4G network." The operator is currently planning to upgrade 140 million pops with the 42Mbit/s service in 2011.

That upgrade has clearly already happened in parts of Manhattan. "We’re running here live in New York on our macro network, there’s no base stations in the room," Neville said in the speedy demo. The carrier showed off an online multi-player game and claimed raw throughput of 20 to 30 Mbit/s over a pre-production ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) 42 stick. "Online gaming is one of the most aggressive ways to stress a wireless network," Ray explained, suggesting that such an application helps to show off the latency capabilities of the network.

The acceleration of HSPA+ will likely not end there for T-Mobile, even as rivals in the U.S. move to Long Term Evolution (LTE). Neville pointed to a chart that listed the overall technical speed of HSPA+ being doubled every year, with 84Mbit/s being the next on the list in 2012. (See T-Mobile's HSPA+ Rivals Clearwire, US LTE Speeds and T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011 .)

T-Mobile has used bonded radio channels to deliver its 42Mbit/s upgrade in the U.S. Neville said that the carrier could look to aggregate channels further to get to a 60Mbit/s-plus service. The steps to 84Mbit/s and beyond require multiple antennas at the base station and on the handset.

Eventually, the carrier does have plans to move to LTE even if it plans to continue to sweat more from its HSPA+ network. Neville, however, didn't say exactly when that will happen.

"At the right point of time, when it's needed for us, we can roll out LTE more as a capacity overlay," Ray says, indicating that such an upgrade would make sense in a heavy-traffic area such as southern Manhattan, whereas T-Mobile could continue to speed up its HSPA+ network in sparser rural areas.

"In the longer term, absolutely we need spectrum, but we're not alone," Ray says. He is looking for an auction of the 700MHz D-block spectrum in 2012 and more Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) in later years.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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