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T-Mobile Expands HSPA+ Coverage

Wed, 06/16/2010 - 8:08am
Monica Alleven

T-Mobile USA is adding more metro areas to its HSPA+ coverage, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas and Atlanta. The carrier says it now offers HSPA+ in more than 25 major metropolitan areas across the country.

Chris Hillabrant, regional vice president of Engineering and Operations for T-Mobile USA in New York, says the operator is particularly excited about the speeds it is seeing, including for 3G devices. The upgrades for HSPA+ include backhaul, and customers who are using other 3G devices get the advantages of that as well.

Year-over-year, the carrier on average nationally has seen data growth in the 400 percent range, and in some larger markets like New York, the growth has hit more than 700 percent.

"If you think of data as a tidal wave coming at us, we think we're very well positioned to ride that wave and provide a superior customer experience," Hillabrant says, adding that T-Mobile has made it affordable with price plans. The Even More Plus talk, text and Web plans start at $59.99 per month.

T-Mobile came to the 3G party a little later than other nationwide carriers, but that's working to its advantage in that it was able to install state-of-the-art hardware for 3G and the upgrades to HSPA+ are mostly software driven. Most of its work for HSPA+ has centered on third-party fiber vendors and getting backhaul in place. "We're pushing as hard as we can."

Chetan Sharma, president of Chetan Sharma Consulting, says he's impressed with how fast T-Mobile is upgrading to HSPA+. "They have a good story to tell in terms of the value," he says, noting the speeds, devices and price plans. "The trick will be to get the message out to consumers."

Plenty of reviews and comparisons have been written in T-Mobile's favor when it comes to data speeds compared with other carriers that advertise 4G speeds. Technically speaking, 4G networks don't exist, but it's a marketing term that's been widely picked up.

T-Mobile has said HSPA+ delivers theoretical peak download speeds of 21 Mbps but notes that typical real-world downlink and uplink speeds will vary based on location, device and overall traffic on the local network at a given time.

T-Mobile recently eliminated overage charges on the most popular webConnect data plan offering of 5 GB/month and cut overage charges in half for the entry-level 200 MB plan. If customers go over their 5 GB limit, they may get throttled down to slower speeds, but T-Mobile says about 95 percent of customers use less than 5 GB a month. Customers also can use T-Mobile's Wi-Fi hot spot network.

T-Mobile expects to deliver HSPA+ in 100 major metropolitan areas, covering 185 million people in the United States, by the end of this year. The order in which T-Mobile rolls out new markets with HSPA+ depends in part on the density of the markets as well as what kind of backhaul it's got lined up, Hillabrant says.

Markets announced today include Los Angeles; Seattle; Houston and Dallas, Texas; Pittsburgh; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; Atlanta;  New Orleans; Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, Greensboro and Fayetteville, N.C.; and Charleston, S.C. 

T-Mobile's HSPA+ service already was live in New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Memphis, upstate New York, Connecticut, Providence, R.I.; and the Washington, D.C. suburbs. It's also been expanded to Bentonville, Ark.; Anderson, S.C.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.

T-Mobile's first HSPA+ capable device is the webConnect Rocket USB Laptop Stick, but the carrier says more than 15 released T-Mobile devices can benefit from the enhanced speeds.

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