T-Mobile is trying to seize its HSPA+ momentum: The fourth-ranked carrier by subscribers in the US, T-Mobile is trying to establish an advantage through its fast deployment of 7.2 Mbps HSPA followed this year by 21 Mbps HSPA+. But you need the proper hardware to go with that faster network, and today's announcement of the webConnect Rocket USB Laptop Stick (no pricing yet) is signaling more to come.
The modem won't ship until March, and HSPA+ is available only in Philadelphia so far. T-Mobile said it will focus on bringing HSPA+ to the coasts first, and then move inland. In an interview, T-Mobile said it would have the "majority" of its footprint upgraded to HSPA+ in 2010.
The company also stressed its work on backhaul improvements, a bane of the mobile broadband industry. You can have as much bandwidth as you want on the local link between devices and the tower, but then you have to offload that to a core network. Many cell sites had paltry backhaul and it was difficult to bring in more. T-Mobile promised me more details soon, but the company recognizes that you can't advertise a raw rate of 21 Mbps--probably 5 to 7 Mbps to individual users--without having invested on the backside, as AT&T has learned to its high discomfort.
T-Mobile would like bragging rights for having the fastest network, although even with the latest market rollouts, it's still covering just over 200m people in approaching 300 cities. AT&T, by contrast, even with its smaller-than-Verizon 3G footprint has 350 metro areas (not just cities) with 3G service, although AT&T doesn't seem to discuss people passed with service.
I keep pressing T-Mobile on its 5 GB monthly bandwidth limit included with all its 3G plans as it discusses HSPA+ plans. The 5 GB limit was a quiet or explicit limit before 3G networks could routinely deliver over 1 Mbps (back in the EVDO Rev. 0 and GPRS/UMTS days), and now it seems quaint even for EVDO Rev. A and regular HSPA.
Why give people HSPA+ when, at full speed, they could use up their entire monthly allotment in just over two hours (assuming 5 Mbps average speed)?
So far, T-Mobile just repeats that most of its 3G users consume just a fraction of the 5 GB to which they are entitled each month.