T-Mobile launched its first 3G (third-generation) network, in New York, but customers can't yet use the fastest speeds that the network offers.
Customers can use phones that will let them download data at UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) speeds of as fast as 384K bps (bits per second). While the network supports HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access), which offers download speeds of around 1M bps, T-Mobile doesn't have any handsets yet that are compatible with the network. The operator said it plans to offer its first HSDPA device "in the coming months."
While Cingular Wireless, now AT&T, began selling HSDPA phones in mid-2006, T-Mobile can't offer customers those phones because the operators' networks use different spectrum. That means handset manufacturers must tweak their HSDPA phones that were designed for other operators to work on T-Mobile's network.
T-Mobile has already been selling four phones that will work on the UMTS network. They include Nokia's 6263 and 3555 and Samsung's t639 and t819.
T-Mobile plans to roll out its 3G network across major cities throughout the year, although it did not reveal how many cities it is targeting.
Rather than jump into 3G at the same time as its competitors, T-Mobile has focused on offering Wi-Fi hotspot services. In its announcement about the New York 3G launch, T-Mobile reassured customers that it will continue to build out its hotspot network. It currently has nearly 9,000 hotspots in the U.S.
T-Mobile also offers a service that lets customers use a combined Wi-Fi and cellular phone. Customers can use the phone to make and receive voice calls in their homes over a Wi-Fi connection. Using Wi-Fi for calls may offer a higher quality service than trying to make calls indoors over the wide area cellular network.