Tuesday, May 24, 2011

T-Mobile takes on LTE with HSPA+ 42 Mbps launch in 55 markets

May 24, 2011 — 12:01am ET By Mike Dano

T-Mobile USA announced it will launch HSPA+ 42 Mbps speeds in 55 markets across the United States, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix and elsewhere.

The launch essentially doubles the speeds provided by T-Mobile's current HSPA+ 21 Mbps network, though the carrier said it will continue to brand the offering as a 4G service.

T-Mobile announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January that it would upgrade its HSPA network to HSPA+ 42 technology. At the time, the carrier said HSPA+ 42 will provide speeds comparable with Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) recently launched LTE network. T-Mobile said it tested T-Mobile's planned HSPA+ 42 upgrade against Verizon's LTE network in Las Vegas, and found both networks provided average download speeds of around 8 Mbps.

To support the HSPA+ 42 launch, T-Mobile said it will begin selling its first 42 Mbps-capable product, the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 laptop stick, starting May 25. Built by ZTE, the stick will sell for $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a qualifying mobile broadband plan (2 GB or higher) on a two year service agreement, with voice line and enrollment in Easy Pay. Customers can also purchase the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 without a contract for $199.99.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile's CTO Neville Ray said the carrier expects to cover around 140 million POPs with HSPA+ 42 network technology by year-end.

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) announced in March its plans to acquire T-Mobile--an action that could scramble T-Mobile's network upgrade progress. AT&T has said if the deal goes through, it would work to move customers off of T-Mobile's UMTS service, which currently runs on its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum, and onto AT&T's 1900 MHz spectrum. AT&T will then run its LTE service over its 700 MHz spectrum and over AWS spectrum. In other words, T-Mobile customers with 3G handsets will eventually have to purchase new devices that work with AT&T's frequencies.

AT&T and T-Mobile expect the transaction to close sometime early next year.

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