T-Mobile's Faster 3G Requires Fresher Gear

T-Mobile US Inc. 's planned 42-Mbit/s 3G update in 2011 will involve a software upgrade on the network side, according to a Heavy Reading analyst, but it will also require new devices to take full advantage of the HSPA+ speed boost.

T-Mobile started deploying its initial 21-Mbit/s HSPA+ in Philadelphia in 2009 and now covers 55 markets in the US with the high-speed packet access upgrade to its 3G GSM network. The operator said Tuesday afternoon that it will start to deploy the next step -- a 42-Mbit/s upgrade -- in 2011. (See T-Mobile Leaves AT&T in Its HSPA+ Dust and T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011 .) T-Mobile isn't yet saying how it will achieve the speed boost. Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown, however, says that the operator must be planning to deploy the "dual-carrier" HSPA+ upgrade, which allows networks to send and receive wireless data using two channels simultaneously. This is because the 21- to 42-Mbit/s speed bump matches the profile of doubling up radio channels to increase peak download speeds, rather than the 28- to 56-Mbit/s jump seen in the multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna-based upgrade path for HSPA+. (See MWC 2010: Dual-Carrier Duel.)

The dual-carrier technique involves bonding two adjacent 5MHz channels to double the capacity of a data connection to an end user. So the technique doesn't add additional capacity to the cell; it multiplexes the existing capacity to cope with bursty data traffic. It's a way of using existing capacity to meet ever-growing subscriber bandwidth needs.

"Its quite suited to bursty traffic like Internet downloads," explains Brown.

So, the upgrade doesn't require the expensive doubling-up of antennas at cell towers, like the MIMO-based HSPA+ upgrade or the wholesale network upgrade required for Long Term Evolution (LTE). It will, however, require new "dual-channel" devices to fully take advantage of the 3G speed boost.

Early 42-Mbit/s-compliant devices offered on the updated T-Mobile network are likely to be data-centric dongles and cards. Expect gizmos much like the Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW) AirCard 312U wireless USB modem, launched Monday on the Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) HSPA+ network in Australia. The modem maker says that users can expect "real-world" downloads of 20 Mbit/s down under.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

DevilsRejection 12/5/2012 | 4:24:54 PM
re: T-Mobile's Faster 3G Requires Fresher Gear

Inside T-Mobile's latest newsletter, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you'll see that they're upcoming G2 only does 14.4 Mbps.


Shame, would have loved to see 21 Mbps in a handset, benchmarking at over 10 Mbps real world, or even higher!

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:24:53 PM
re: T-Mobile's Faster 3G Requires Fresher Gear

Shame! Although the average speeds probably will still be decent.

digits 12/5/2012 | 4:24:52 PM
re: T-Mobile's Faster 3G Requires Fresher Gear

Once T-Mobile upgrades to the infrastructure taht can deliver the theoretical 42Mbit/s downlink, it'll be interesting to see how it markets the resulting service -- there's a growing stink here in the UK (in fixed broadband) about how operators advertise an 'up to' speed that is WAY off the real-world bandwidth achieved.

Same old same old, of course, but there seeme sto be growing realization among users that, in a way, they are being duped by mentions of speeds that can never be achieved, and, therefore, the expectation of (for example) a jitter/delay-free mobile video stream, will nearly always be unmet.  

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:24:51 PM
re: T-Mobile's Faster 3G Requires Fresher Gear

Its a definite issue but easy to see why T-Mobile is claiming "4G speeds" when other carriers claim they have -- or will have -- "4G" services that are actually not remotely meeting the ITU requirements for 4G.


I do think US carriers have to be careful though. All the "Mobile Internet is here" ads running before they even had 3G services in 2000 or thereabouts running really put people off 3G for a while I think.

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