T-Mobile Seeks 'Fastest 3G' Crown with HSPA+

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T-Mobile is taking advantage of the CTIA show to roll out a number of new wireless devices, and announce its ambitious plans to expand its 3.5G HSPA+ network. T-Mobile is late to the party--as its competitors have all moved on to working on 4G implementation--but HSPA+ is a bridge technology that will allow T-Mobile's wireless broadband network to remain competitive, or even surpass the competition for a short while.

The T-Mobile HSPA+ network--which delivers wireless broadband speeds up to a theoretical max of 21mbps--is currently in place in test markets. T-Mobile plans to expand the high speed data network to 185 million Americans (only 34 million of which are actually T-Mobile customers) by the end of 2010.

T-Mobile is playing from deep in the hole, though. It is the smallest of the four major wireless providers in the United States, and it hasn't offered any compelling edge to attract defectors from competing wireless networks. Sprint claims the "most reliable" 3G network. Verizon claims "biggest." AT&T claims "fastest." T-Mobile has Charles Barkley and Eric Clapton. Until now.

Businesses--particularly businesses interested in Windows Mobile smartphones and Windows 7-based netbooks--have good reason to look twice at T-Mobile. Aside from the HSPA+ network rollout announcement, T-Mobile has also unveiled a Dell Mini 10 netbook running Windows 7 Starter Edition, and revealed the highly-anticipated HTC HD2 smartphone.

Doing business with the smallest of the big boys has its advantages too. Being at the bottom of the wireless provider totem pole means that T-Mobile is more flexible, and tries harder. T-Mobile has some of the most generous and favorable pricing plans, and it ranks highest among the four major wireless providers for customer service.

Sprint and Verizon get to keep their titles for now. But, while its technically 3.5G, once T-Mobile gets the HSPA+ network implemented, it will capture the "fastest" 3G network crown from AT&T. Granted, it's more a marketing bragging right than anything else, but it's AT&T's primary claim to fame aside from being sole provider of the Apple iPhone.

For now, the only device capable of utilizing the HSPA+ network is T-Mobile's webConnect Rocket USB broadband modem. T-Mobile will continue to introduce devices capable of taking full advantage of the HSPA+ capabilities. However, even existing T-Mobile customers will notice improvements in 3G performance as a result of the network upgrades.

T-Mobile is not resting on its laurels or quietly accepting its fourth-place status. It was the first provider to partner with Google for the Nexus One, it is the first provider to deliver the HTC HD2, and now it will have a super-fast broadband network to back them up.

Businesses looking for a wireless provider--or considering a move from an existing wireless provider--should look seriously at what T-Mobile has to offer and examine some of the advantages that T-Mobile brings to the table.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW . You can follow him on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com .

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