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T-Mobile expands HSPA+, calls it 4G

Wed, 11/03/2010 - 8:10am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

After months of flirting with the marketing around its HSPA+ network, T-Mobile USA dropped all pretenses as it turned on the service in six new markets, billing the service as 4G.

T-Mobile says it's now offering "4G" in Chicago, Ill.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; and Raleigh-Durham and Wilmington, N.C. The company also launched its first "4G" devices, T-Mobile myTouch 4G and its "first 4G netbook," the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 4G.

T-Mobile backed up its 4G claim by saying that its HSPA+ network has typical download speeds that are on par with or faster than competing 4G technologies. The carrier's HSPA+ upgrade is now available in more than 75 metropolitan markets in the U.S., and the company plans to roll out dual carrier HSPA+ next year, which offers theoretical peak download speeds of 42 Mbps.

"As customer demand for wireless data increases, T-Mobile is well-positioned to compete based on the speed, breadth and evolution path of our mobile broadband service," said Neville Ray, chief technology officer of T-Mobile USA, in a statement.

The company is touting its HSPA+ upgrades as "America's Largest 4G Network" in a national ad campaign that will begin airing today on major television networks and cable stations, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and TNT. Ads will also appear on several prominent websites, including AOL, MSN, Amazon.com and YouTube.

The ads take a dig at AT&T's 3G network and the iPhone 4's video chat feature. T-Mobile is rolling out video chat on its new Android-based myTouch 4G model, which works on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

T-Mobile's marketing move could rile the likes of Clearwire and Verizon Wireless, which are putting billions of dollars into the deployment of their respective WiMAX and LTE networks.

Versions of WiMAX and LTE are on track to become certified 4G technologies but none of the services currently on the market have been certified by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as true fourth-generation wireless services, though that hasn't stopped the carriers from marketing them as 4G. Sprint is touting Clearwire's WiMAX network as 4G, and Verizon is making the same claim about its upcoming LTE network, which will launch in 38 markets by the end of the year.

A recent report authored by Yankee Group researcher Chris Nicoll found that marketing terms like 3G and 4G mean little to consumers. Data from a recent Yankee Group survey found that nearly three-fourths of users didn't know or understand what 4G is and more than half don't know what 3G is despite years of marketing by carriers.

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