Earlier today we told you about T-Mobile’s plan to roll out 42Mbps HSPA+ 4G, but what does that really mean?
The 42Mbps speed may never be fully realized on any individual device, though faster throughput in any area means less time will be required to serve up the same amount of data. Assuming the amount of data remains the same, observed speeds across the coverage area should increase drastically.
To accomplish the 42Mbps speeds T-Mobile needs to upgrade towers to the 42Mbps capable HSPA+, upgrade the bandwidth to those towers, and have phones (or other devices) that support the new speeds. The latter may prove to be more of a challenge.
T-Mobile‘s current “4G” phones are drastically different in their specs. For example, the T-Mobile G2 and myTouch 4G support a maximum download speed of 14.4Mbps. The Samsung Galaxy S 4G will reportedly reach 21Mbps, and there are some rumors that the T-Mobile G2x may support the full 42Mbps HSPA+ specification.
Compare that to the newly released Thunderbolt running on the very small Verizon LTE network. Reportedly, those speeds will max out at 10Mbps over much of 2011.
Of course we’re still talking theoretical maximum throughputs. Real-world conditions may weigh out differently. My T-Mobile G2 is capable of 14.4Mbps, but I only see 2 to 4 Mbps in everyday use. Then again, I’m in an area where T-Mobile’s 4G isn’t fully rolled out yet. Others with the same phone are reporting 8 to 12 Mbps in more metropolitan areas. Those speeds already beat out Verizon’s LTE. Once 21Mbps and 42Mbps are rolled out in those metros, Verzion’s LTE doesn’t seem that impressive.
Of course we have to factor in the latest news from AT&T. Apparently as part of the yet-to-be-approved T-Mobile acquisition, AT&T plans to re-purpose T-Mobile’s 1700 Mhz spectrum for their flavor of LTE. The implications for current T-Mobile customers may be profound: since LTE and HSPA+ can’t play nicely together on the same frequencies, all T-Mobile 3G and 4G phones won’t be able to get those speeds once AT&T converts the band from HSPA+ to LTE — leaving those customers with EDGE speeds until they replace their phones with AT&T 4G compatible phones. AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G may as well be non-existent currently.
Until the merger is complete (and I personally hope it doesn’t get approved), those of us on T-Mobile can continue to enjoy 3G and increasingly speedy 4G speeds thanks to HSPA+.