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.