T-Mobile UK has announced an upgrade of its data services for laptops to High Speed Downlink Packet Access, with plans to launch handsets for the faster rates it offers in the late third or early fourth quarter of this year.
This means that the mobile arm of Deutsche Telekom AG has now launched the 3.5G technology in five countries in Europe (Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Hungary being the other four), with only the Czech Republic and Croatia still to come in the Old Continent and, of course, the USA, which has not actually moved to 3G.
Ron Langton, data marketing manager for T-Mobile (UK) Ltd, said the service starts with a download speed of 1.8Mbps, compared to just 384kbps for 3G (that is, W-CDMA). That speed is consistent, regardless of where the subscriber is in the cell, he added.
Next year the service will be upgraded to offer 3.6Mbps in a more restricted area around the base station, degrading as the subscriber moves out to the edge of the cell, and then by the end of the year we’ll be at 7.2Mbps and again, consistency out to the edge.
That will entail a move from the current data card to a new one for 3.6Mbps, but the upgrade to 7.2Mbps will retain that card, he said. And the carrier will obviously want to facilitate the migration to stimulate its data services business, so the card switch should not be too onerous.
Interestingly, the 7.2Mbps iteration of the connectivity offering will also include an improvement in the uplink, as the company will by then have incorporated High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) into its network. The upload speed will then be 1Mbps compared to 384kbps right now, Langton said.
He said T-Mobile had upgraded its entire 3G network to HSDPA, which means the faster data rate is available in an area where 65% of the country’s population is located. In the rest of the territory, which is still on its 2.5G (GPRS) network, the service will fall back to the data rate it makes possible, which is a rather unspectacular 114kbps.
Langton also pointed out that the data card for its Web’n’Walk Professional service, which is what it calls its laptop connectivity offering, is quad-band GSM, GPRS (i.e. 2.5G) and EDGE (2.75G) compatible, which means that where a 3G or higher data rate is not available, it can still be used.
In the US, T-Mobile is still running a 2G network and has EDGE deployed, which means European visitors with Web’n’Walk accounts will be able to get onto its network (thanks to its quad-band capabilities), and get a data rate which, while a lot slower than HSDPA or even 3G, is at least better than GPRS.
T-Mobile US would not discuss whether it planned to roll out a 3G network in the US, or even if it would be able to do so without additional licensing.
T-Mobile is not commenting on spectrum or network-related issues due to the upcoming AWS auction, said a spokesperson.
The federal AWS, or Advanced Wireless Services, auction is basically the US’ attempt to merge with other 3G spectrum plans globally. Airwaves from 2155Mhz to 2175 Mhz have been allocated for AWS. Initially scheduled for June 29, the AWS auction was abruptly pushed back by the US Federal Communications Commission to August 9.
As for HSDPA handsets, Langton said they will be available in late Q3 or early Q4, and while he declined to go into details as to the handsets, he did mention that an HSDPA version of HTC’s Windows Mobile 5.0-based PDA phones, which T-Mobile calls the MDA range, is planned by the Taiwanese ODM.