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

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:25:02 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

If the average download speeds maintain the same charactheristics across the generations of HSPA+ then we should see average downloads in the 14 Mbit/s plus range I think, could be more. Not bad at all.

anogee 12/5/2012 | 4:24:53 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

I think the wireless operators need to start adhering to some better truth in advertising standards that are in-line with wireline broadband.  First, lets stop talking about these "theoretical speeds" which the reality is, you will NEVER EVER see them.  Second, lets also stop talking about peak speeds.  Yes, certainly all these wireless networks can reach short-term peaks in speed, but lets start talking about sustained speeds, not those that register on a speed test application which measures the data rate over a very short period, which the networks are optimized for.

Two other things, all wireless networks vary in speed based on the signal level and the number of people within a cell tower which you are sharing the network with.  Lets put some reaonable assumptions to these figures as well when we talk about expected rates.

I subscribe to a 3Mbps DSL service at home, and 95% of the time, its mightly close to 3mbps.  We need to use at LEAST a 75% certainly with wireless.  I want to know what speed will I get MOST of the time, not the speed I'll get while I'm sitting under the cell tower while being the only one on the cell while stationary.  Under real life conditions, I bet I'll be seeing 42Mbps rates on my phone at the same time that pigs will be flying past my window.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:24:51 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

Well, T-Mobile said 5 to 8 Mbit/s on average for 21 Mbit/s upgrade with bursts up to 10 Mbit/s. The 42 Mbit/s upgrade gets them a bonded channel with a little bit oomph, so it seems like 10 Mbit/s to 18 Mbit/s with higher bursts should be very do-able. Sierra Wireless says it is getting averages of 20 Mbit/s on its USB card for Telestra.

I agree that there should be truth in advertising but when all the other carriers are claiming that their LTE and WiMax services are "4G" (but don't remotely meet the specs yet) I can also see the temptation for T-Mobile to claim 4G speeds.

In the end, its going to depend on how much spectrum, backhaul and signalling capability T-Mobile to field. If more users join because of the fast service then the speed is likely to drop anyway, which is the quandary of wireless I guess.

anogee 12/5/2012 | 4:24:51 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

I don't deny that 18 Mbps speeds are possible, the question is that speed likely or common?  When I subscribe to a service like wireless broadband, I want to know whats the minimum I will receive, not the maximum. 

PC Mag did a good test of some speed in various cities.  Yes they reached 9Mbps on occasion, but was it typical? Nope. 


When I subscribe to service, I don't much care about what data speed someone somewhere acheived, I care what data rate I'm getting at the moment when I need it.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:24:50 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

I agree that we need a better way to give reliable average data speeds. Although T-Mobile will turn round and say that they culled those average data ranges from media reviews of their first HSPA+ USB dongle, which they did.

Still there's so many variables -- you using a dongle, a phone, how far from the tower, what obstacles blocking the signal -- that I don't think carriers are ever going to adopt a more realistic approach unless consumer pressure forces them too.

At the moment I don't see that happening. Your best approach is to do as much research as possible before buying a wireless device.

AllKindsOfThings 12/5/2012 | 4:24:18 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011

Not so sure that carriers can hope to ever adopt a very much more realistic approach if they even wanted to - isn't a quite comprehensive set of parameters required to be balanced out in realtime by wireless connectivity management, taking into account a ton of parameters which are constantly dynamically used to adapt each and every connection/session in a cell?

Its not just whats in the way/line of sight (which certainly IS important), its also what people do in a cell, if they move, which transmission patterns they create, which bandwidth they use, how many sessions they run in parallel, the implementation and vendor of all the telco equipment used to serve the connection, etc. etc. 

Ont top of the above, the whole topic also has strong location AND time-of-day based usage pattern that depends on varaiation, but a statement like "our network can deliver xyz speed at 75% of the time in 80% of all coverage locations between 10 am and 4 pm and 8 pm to 2 am as long as no more than abc number of people share the cell" doesn't help much either. And even if all is fine, it can still turn out that just where you are groups of teens toting smartphones disembark from a greyhound busses every 30 minutes and clogg up the cell that worked just fine a few seconds ago.


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:24:16 PM
re: T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011


But the same issue of statistical utilization is true for basically any form of broadband communications attached to "The Internet".

The usage patterns at the air level are complicated by the available backhaul bandwidth. 

Again, what I think we have ended up selling is the maximum bit clock at the demarc (even if is inside your phone).  So, there is incentive for carriers to invest in access rate technologies but not a huge interest in metro or core networking per se.  AT&T has had this in spades for their iPhone throughput issues.

I don't have an effective solution until we start describing more bits of the network to people.  I don't think latency, jitter and oversubscription are going to help folks.  Service capabilities (and maybe the ability to dynamically add service capabilities) are what I think are needed to be defined and described.



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