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Summary:

The T-Mobile HSPA+ network expansion continues as three more areas of the U.S. can take advantage of the faster 3G speeds. Or are they “4G speeds” as T-Mobile is now claiming? My previous hands-on experience with both HSPA+ and WiMAX can answer that question.

T-Mobile today announced availability of its HSPA+ network in three new Northeast corridor areas comprised of upstate New York (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse), Connecticut (Hartford, New Haven, Milford and Stamford) and Providence, R.I. The carrier says that Washington, D.C. and Boston are next on the HSPA+ implementation list “in the coming weeks.”

Perhaps more interesting than the actual network news is the language T-Mobile uses to describe it — the carrier states that its 3.5G HSPA+ network offers speeds comparable to the 4G networks of its competitors. From the press release:

“Our competitors are asking consumers to pay more for faster wireless service with limited coverage and very few capable devices,” said Neville Ray, senior vice president of Engineering and Operations for T-Mobile USA. “In contrast, T-Mobile is already delivering 4G speeds today to customers and we continue to make major leaps in expanding our HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint.”

Clearly Ray is pointing a finger at Sprint, which is the only U.S. carrier offering and marketing a 4G network, the nationwide WiMAX network it’s in the process of implementing with Clear. The “asking customers to pay more” is a likely reference to Sprint’s $10 premium data charge for the first 4G handset, the Sprint EVO.

So does the HSPA+ network offer 4G-like speeds? I’ve had some hands-on time with both the HSPA+ and the WiMAX networks and based on my experience, I’d generally say yes. Download speeds of 10 Mbps aren’t uncommon when using hardware like T-Mobile’s webConnect Rocket Laptop Stick in an HSPA+ coverage area, which is as fast, if not faster than what I’ve seen on a WiMAX network. Even my Nexus One and its 3G radio capable of only 7.2 Mbps speeds is as fast as what other hands-on testers have reported with Sprint’s EVO on a WiMAX network — and that’s without a premium data charge. In fact, T-Mobile recently eliminated overage charges on its data plans and instead reserves the right to throttle down service after users consume more than 5GB of monthly bandwidth. As the carrier loses customers, it continues to bet that the HSPA+ network expansion and overage elimination will pay off in the long run.

Here’s a look at my HSPA+ experience on a non-optimized area of the T-Mobile network back in February.

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  1. Rogers, Bell and Telus have all been offering HSPA+ across Canada since November last year when Bell and Telus launched their new joint Canada wide network and started offering the iPhone. And they are all offering a mobile wireless stick to give PC’s a 21 Mbps download. I have had no personal experience but it’s certainly being heavily promoted.

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    1. I’d expect about half of the theoretical speeds, Jim. Nice that you have three choices there for HSPA+, curious to hear your experiences if you give it a try.

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    2. I’d expect about half of the theoretical speeds, Jim. Nice that you have three choices there for HSPA+, curious to hear your experiences if you give it a try.

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