CHICAGO – T-Mobile USA is fully embracing HSPA+, to the extent that it turned on about 20 cell sites in the Philadelphia market yesterday – a first for the U.S. market.
So far, the HSPA+ deployment shows a "very promising start," said Neville Ray, senior vice president of engineering and operations at T-Mobile USA, during a morning keynote at 4G World/Mobile Internet World.
T-Mobile USA's commitment to HSPA+ is a logical one for the GSM community, but fellow GSM-based operator AT&T surprised attendees earlier in the week when Kris Rinne, senior vice president of architecture and planning at AT&T, indicated the operator will make the jump to Long Term Evolution without the HSPA+ interim step.
Ray candidly said he was surprised by AT&T's move, but "it's their business." Onlookers have suggested AT&T is going the LTE route faster because it has 700 MHz spectrum that needs to get used and is prime for it.
To be sure, both T-Mobile USA and AT&T are going the way of LTE. Meanwhile, AT&T is rolling out HSPA 7.2 in markets now.
Ray said the HSPA+ upgrade generally involves a software rather than hardware upgrade, although that's somewhat vendor-dependent. T-Mobile plans to expand the Philadelphia market further with HSPA+ and will expand from there into 2010.
"We're very committed to the LTE path," he said, pointing out that T-Mobile International is paving the way in a lot of areas, and the U.S. division can learn a lot from the parent company.
3G Americas expects most of the HSPA networks will go to HSPA+. Part of the decision-making process no doubt involves spectrum.
Chris Pearson, president of 3G Americas, in an interview yesterday said he thinks one of the key issues for a carrier to consider will be their assets, engineering resources and budget in terms of whether to go to HSPA+ or not. "I think HSPA+ will be extremely successful," not only in the United States but elsewhere in the Americas. That said, "we also think LTE is going to be successful."
Earlier this week, Rogers Wireless in Canada launched HSPA+ in five markets.