T-Mobile Hopes that Slow and Steady Wins the 4G Race

by Matt Klassen on March 29, 2010

While many major wireless networks work tirelessly to gain an advantage in the heated 4G race, T-Mobile has decided to take a different approach, one that echoes the story of the Tortoise and Hare. In a race where the competition is sprinting so far out in front that they are almost out of sight, T-Mobile is hoping that a slow and steady approach will eventually win the day…it just may take a little time. 

In a recent announcement T-Mobile revealed that instead of developing their own 4G network, they are working on an upgrade to for their current HSPA network known as HSPA+. With this upgrade, T-Mobile will offer the fastest 3G (what many analysts have dubbed a 3.5G) network in the country, clearly putting them out in front in a market that is quickly becoming old news; for while this upgrade will indeed exceed the data transfer speeds of any other 3G network, it still falls well short of what carriers are offering with their fledgling 4G services.

But what would motivate T-Mobile to focus their R&D budget on something that will almost certainly be obsolete by the end of the year? The answer, according to T-Mobile spokeswoman Krista Berlincourt in a recent interview with TechNewsWorld, is that HSPA+ will clearly continue to meet all the needs of mobile customers well into the future. So while LTE 4G upgrades are certainly in T-Mobile’s advancement plans, as Berlincourt states, “we’re in no hurry to get there.”

Further, like the Tortoise, T-Mobile predicts it will soon be ahead of the game, with future HSPA upgrades expected to meet, if not exceed, what carriers are boasting with their current LTE 4G advancements. “We see ourselves moving ahead of the competition in 2010-2011…take a leading position not just because of our HSPA+ network expansion, but also because of where the device ecosystem sits globally,” Berlincourt noted in the interview.

While it’s admirable to have a long-term plan for how to catch their competitors, it still confuses me why T-Mobile would be in no hurry to develop an advanced LTE 4G network for their customers. Although 4G is still clearly in its infancy, the fact that many customers are already enjoying its blazing fast service, and many more will have access by the end of the year, means that even if T-Mobile’s HSPA+ is released today it would already be behind the curve

The key problem I envisage, however, is the issue of technological advancement. With this recent upgrade, it is highly unlikely that T-Mobile will be rolling out another HSPA++ anytime soon, meaning that their 3.5G network will remain static while others continue to advance. In addition, while T-Mobile may indeed eventually role out a HSPA upgrade that matches or exceeds current 4G data transfer rates, by the time they do most other major carriers will have already released upgrades for their own 4G networks, again putting T-Mobile behind the eight-ball.

So while T-Mobile can now clearly boast the fasted upgraded 3.5G network in the country, the announcement seems rather hollow and disappointing, and I can only imagine what T-Mobile customers are thinking when they the only news they hear about a potential 4G upgrade is, “we’re in no hurry to get there.”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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