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Summary:

At CES, T-Mobile launched the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G which can take full advantage of the operators HSPA+ 42 Mbps speeds. I sat down with T-Mobile CTO, Neville Ray, to discuss the operators 4G network of today as well as it’s plans for the future.

hspa+evolution

After spending the last two years developing first a 21 Mbps and then a 42 Mbps mobile broadband network, T-Mobile continues to add new devices. The latest is the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G which uses a radio that can take full advantage of the operators HSPA+ 42 Mbps speeds.

Given that other carriers often launch ten or more new smartphones annually at CES, news of the Blaze 4G may sound underwhelming. But in addition to expanding its 42 Mbps service to cover 184 million people, T-Mobile did launch 25 new HSPA+ phones in 2011. I expect that approach of rolling launches to continue in 2012; especially now that its acquisition by AT&T is no longer looming on the mind of T-Mobile.

I haven’t seen the new Android smartphone firsthand yet, but T-Mobile tells me it uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S3 processor, which is a dual-core, 1.5 GHz chip. In addition, Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen technology is used in the touchscreen display. Pricing and availability haven’t been announced.

After hearing about the new smartphone, I had the chance to chat briefly with Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s CTO. He confirmed that T-Mobile isn’t stopping at 42 Mbps and intends to double down again to get to 84 Mbps on it’s network. The software in T-Mobile’s cell sites is generally ready, but because 84 Mbps will require a multiple antenna, or MIMO, solution, T-Mobile will have to work with handset makers to prepare new hardware as well as install new antennas on its cell towers. T-Mobile also needs to upgrade the backhaul links to some of its cell sites.

T-Mobile did acquire more spectrum from the failed AT&T deal, which could help T-Mobile accelerate its overall network strategy. And that strategy doesn’t preclude LTE, which Ray said will happen when it makes sense economically.

I couldn’t pin down an LTE timeline from Ray, but with the 84 Mbps plans and additional spectrum from AT&T, I think we’ll hear about some LTE strategies later this year. For now, it’s an HSPA+ world for T-Mobile customers, but that’s not a bad thing. My Galaxy Nexus sees 10 Mbps down in my area — which is a 21 Mbps coverage zone — and for a smartphone, that’s plenty fast enough for the relatively inexpensive price of a T-Mobile data plan.

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  1. “My Galaxy Nexus sees 10 Mbps down in my area — which is a 21 Mbps coverage zone — and for a smartphone, that’s plenty fast enough for the relatively inexpensive price of a T-Mobile data plan.”

    This really is the crux of the matter and a lot of people don’t think through the implications and get all wound up about LTE. My Galaxy S Vibrant gets 3.7m down and 800k up with 100ms ping. The people who are hung up on LTE need to consider what I’m going to use on my phone that will take advantage of higher speeds and that’s useful in a world with 2gig data caps. Facebook updates, Tweets and email aren’t it.

    1. yes, not useful at all in fact… oh wait, how long do you think it’ll take t-mobile to begin to compete directly with the DSL and Cable home internet providers in the united states?

      they’ll have a nation-wide 21 mbps service, which is much more than the average home connection has access to.

      i believe after this full upgrade they’ll plan to remove the cap on home subscribers which won’t bottleneck into congested cells, which is the primary reason they cap the data in the first place.

  2. all this speed makes little sense when the caps are staying low. where are the 50GB/month data plans? that would be just about what would attract a lot of people to spend quite a bit extra on cellular and dump the cable/dsl. especially single occupant households with just a phone plus perhaps one laptop and a tablet.

    a phone with 50GB data cap and tethering allowed would be perfect, and plenty of people would be willing to pay. but there is no option for such a plan in the US.

    1. I don’t see these kind of caps in the near future. There are not enough cell tower channels to have people dropping their landline data for pure LTE. It costs a whole hell of a lot more money to put in the capacity for people to get all data over the airwaves than it does from burying a cable in the ground to a house.

  3. Samsung makes one of the best phones now, but hey should start thinking ahead if they want to keep up, they don’t have their own OS, and they should figure out a way to integrate all of their devices a little bit more… not only the tablet-smatphone line,they have a great hardware, but OS & soft? http://baretech.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-future-of-samsung/

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