T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

T-Mobile US Inc. said Tuesday afternoon that it will increase the maximum possible data speeds offered on its upgraded 3G network to 42 Mbit/s in 2011.

The fourth-ranked mobile operator in the US has been upgrading its GSM-based 3G network with a high-speed packet access plus (HSPA+) software update for months now. Upgraded markets offer a theoretical peak download speed of 21 Mbit/s. The operator has previously said that this translates into average download speeds in the 5-to-8-Mbit/s range using its HSPA+ webConnect Rocket laptop stick with peaks at 10 Mbit/s and over. (See T-Mobile's HSPA+ Rivals Clearwire, US LTE Speeds.)

This already puts T-Mobile in the lane with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s average mobile download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbit/s and within spitting distance of Verizon Wireless 's promised average downloads of 5 to 12 Mbit/s for its upcoming Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network. After being late to 3G, T-Mobile clearly doesn't intend to lose the marketing battle to offer "4G speeds" even if no carrier actually provides a real 4G service yet.

"Our new network offers today’s available 4G speeds to more people than any other wireless network in the country and we’re not done yet," says Neville Ray, chief network officer for T-Mobile USA, in a statement. "We are now on pace to more than double our HSPA+ footprint -- reaching more than 200 million people by this year -- with plans to offer 42-Mbit/s theoretical speeds in 2011."

The operator may also be able to make the 42-Mbit/s move without significant hardware upgrades on the infrastructure side. Other operators like Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) have started to work with HSPA+ "dual-carrier" technology [ed. note: That's two radio channels, folks!] to get a speed boost without multiple extra antennas.

"Dual-carrier is an attractive upgrade path for HSPA, more so than MIMO," notes Heavy reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown.

T-Mobile isn't talking about its technology options yet. "We don’t have more details to share at this point," a spokeswoman tells Light Reading Mobile in an email note.

We do know, however, that the operator has its first 21-Mbit/s High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) G2 HSPA+ handset coming in September. You can watch for updates on T-Mobile's teaser site here.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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