Blog Post

Updated: 4 Things You Need to Know About T-Mobile 3G

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Updated:  Today is the big announcement in New York by T-Mobile, which will show off its spiffy new G1 phone powered by Google.  The G1 is the first smartphone to run the Google Android operating system and is expected to work seamlessly with Google services like Gmail and Google Maps.  The G1 will support the relatively new T-Mobile 3G data network, and since not many are familiar with T-Mobile’s 3G, it’s a good time to take a look at four things you should know in order to get the most out of 3G.

Data plans.  T-Mobile is currently offering two 3G data plans.  The unlimited data plan is $29.99 monthly when added to a voice plan and allows full access to T-Mobile’s 3G network where available.  The unlimited data plan + hotspot will set you back $49.99 per month but adds access to T-Mobile’s vast Wi-Fi hotspots to the 3G to keep you covered. T-Mobile is expected to offer a special data plan to go along with the G1 and this plan may have special pricing.  UPDATE: in the press conference today T-Mobile outlined the two plans available for use with the G1 phone.  There will be a $25 unlimited data plan with 400 texts and a $35 plan with unlimited data and texts.

Tethering.  Mobile professionals working on the go with a laptop derive great benefit if they can “tether” their phone to the laptop for connectivity.  This is accomplished either through a wireless Bluetooth or a USB cable connection from the 3G-enabled phone to the laptop.  Tethering turns the 3G phone into a modem that accesses the high-speed data network so the worker’s laptop gains access just as if it was connected directly to the network.  Many U.S. carriers charge extra for tethering their phones to laptops but it is allowed currently on all T-Mobile data plans without an extra charge.  UPDATE:  T-Mobile stated during the G1 press conference today that tethering with the G1 is not possible.  It is not clear if they are simply forbidding it or if they are blocking the ability on the phone/ network.

Phones.  The T-Mobile 3G network may look like those in use by other global carriers, but it’s not.  T-Mobile uses a radio frequency band (1700 MHz) for 3G connections that is unique in the world.  The carrier claims it allows faster data speeds but the reality is it means that only phones specifically designed for the T-Mobile network will work at full speed.  You can’t just use any phone, which limits the consumer’s choices for handsets.  According to the T-Mobile web site there are only five phones that support 3G offered by T-Mobile, not counting the newly announced G1, which is not available yet.  These phones are the Samsung t639, t819, Nokia 3555, 6263, and the Sony Ericsson TM506.

3G coverage. T-Mobile has only begun rolling out their 3G network for the past few months and it is not yet available outside some of the larger cities in the U.S.  In the past week, the carrier has lit up their local 3G coverage maps that depict the coverage on a zoomable map based on the consumer’s zip code or address.  This makes it possible to determine what your coverage will be prior to committing to a 3G data contract with the carrier.

34 Responses to “Updated: 4 Things You Need to Know About T-Mobile 3G”

  1. After the two big giants AT&T and Verizon paid monsterious bucks for the cream of allowcated radio spectrum T-Mobile got the left overs. However I bet, iphone, nokia e71, blackberry Storm to name a few have VCO’s that are quite capable of adjusting to the 1700 Mhz without running into there electrical limits. The person(s) who can get there hands on or reverse engineer and come up with a software app. that can (re)align the RF LO’s will make some major bucks since this would allow such phones to work on T-Mobiles 3G.

  2. Hooryder

    Yep…I have stayed with nokia for years…Now I have the N97 and still cant make use of 3g.

    Tmobile did that so people wouldn’t take their phones to other carriers but who wants to? Tmobile should have made use of their cheaper pricing to steal all of AT&T customers with the Iphone,lol.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    • Rick Pouncey

      I have an unlocked nokia e71 and it’s the only phone I will have. I am also waiting for my tmobile contract to expire so I can go to att and have 3g. If your phones 3g frequency is 850/1900 MHz like mine you should consider att. As for the Iphones, as user friendly, pretty, fun, app loaded as they are, I am on a personal vendeta to never give apple my business untill they make products with batteries that can be replaced easly and can last a whole 16 hr day under heavy multi-function use like my e71

    • T-Mobile didn’t do that so people couldn’t take their phones to another carrier. They did it because they didn’t have a choice. You see, carriers have to purchase the rights to frequency spectrum. All they could afford was the 1700Mhz spectrum, they got outbid by AT&T on the more commonly used 800Mhz spectrum slice.

  3. Its so not fair! I have a Nokia n82 ad its 3g phone but runs on 2100 Mhz like in europe and asia. Tmobile set their 3g on 1700 Mhz so “we, the people who love unique phones” bbe forced to buy ther crappy phones!

  4. non specifie

    After a scant 10 months with a 2G iPhone, I just dumped it and returned to T-Mobile with their new Sony Ericsson TM506. Though T-Mobile’s 3G is still pending in my area (SF Bay Area), I feel I have the best deal going:

    + $59.99 for 1500 anytime minutes and unlimited nights and weekends

    + $5.99 for “T-MobileWeb”. Officially this is “T-Zones internet” and offers only mobile versions of web content. But in fact it gives me the whole interweb… for $5.99 a month!

    + Opera Mini 4.1 for an elegant tiny form factor browsing experience (easily downloaded after the initial phone setup)

    + $9.99 for 1000 inbound or outbound text messages (equals 1 cent per message)

    + I tethered my TM506 to my Mac through Bluetooth. No problem.

    So for $76 a month, I have fully mobile voice or data with my Mac now, and will have have fully mobile voice plus fast data with my Mac when 3G comes to my area (expected before year’s end.) And of course without my Mac, I can do all the basics on my TM506.

    T-Mobile is romping, with or without the Google Phone.

  5. I was looking forward to this spectacular new phone. BUT it’s basically the same as the iPhone. No tethering. Does the camera even shoot video? I see nothing indicating that either. What’s the point?

  6. RE T-Mobile’s unique 3G frequency: Wouldn’t this hobble the “world phones” they sell when buyers take them overseas? And why would chip, base station and phone manufacturers create unique products for a 3rd-place US carrier? As an amnesic eunuch might have say, “What am I missing?”

    • Rick Pouncey

      I have tmoble for now, but will have to switch to att when my contract is up, because of the stupidity of having a “special 3g frequency” no one else has. I have a nokia e71 “unlocked” phone that will work on any GSM network (quad band) with my 3g operational @ 850/1900 MHz. It is the most incredible phone I have ever seen, for my needs and wants. Since tmoble can’t seem to get it togather and get on board with the rest of the world, I have to sadly go to att, that I don’t like because of past customer service.

      • Rick, I’m on the same boat as you, I also own an E71-2 – and I love this phone (especially Nokia Sports Tracker), but I’m moving on go the N900, and hopign it will be a good phone also.

  7. No tethering?? bummer. For an unlimited data plan, what difference does it make if the G1 is a modem? …makes you wonder if this hides T-Mobiles 3G capacity limitations. Anyway T mobile is leaving quite a few customers on the table.

  8. I’m going to try to confirm shortly if my iMate Ultimate 6150 works on T-Mobile’s 3G. One of the network settings is WCDMA, which happens to work over the 1700Mhz spectrum allocation. It’s possible that it will work with T-Mobile USA’s network.

    I bought it in Dubai in January of 2008 specifically to see if it would work in the States when T-Mobile goes 3G. If so, it’s a FANTASTIC phone. I currently use it “tethered” via Bluetooth to my notebook, but I also use a WiFiRouter application that gives me tethered WiFi access to AT&T’s 3G for any device nearby. It works fantastically, has an amazing VGA screen that womps the iPhone when I run Opera 9.5 Mobile, and hasn’t needed a reboot in literally months.

    Sadly, it runs WM6, but who knows if it will adapt to other OSes in the future. Even more sadly, iMate will likely be bankrupt soon, and I thought this phone specifically would save them in the States. Ugh.

  9. “To the best of my knowledge, I cannot run tethered via my Sidekick.”
    The Sidekick is a different animal. I’m currently tethered via my BlackBerry Curve 8320. T-Mobile is friendly about tethering.