T-Mobile's New York City Network is Proof of HSPA+ Speed

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T-Mobile announced Tuesday that it will upgrade its 3G network to the faster HSPA+ cellular technology in 100 U.S. cities by the end of 2010.

However, the company hadn't made that announcement when PCWorld and Novarum performance tested phone networks in January, but the speeds we saw in our tests strongly suggested something good had happened.

HSPA+ is a software upgrade to T-Mobile's existing 3G infrastructure, allowing the radios on the cell towers to pump out speeds of up to 21 mbps (theoretically) to individual subscribers.

In our January tests, T-Mobile clocked average download speeds of 1220 kbps in New York City, and we saw speeds of as high as 3.5 megabits per second (mbps) in some testing locations. Those high speeds are similar to what you might expect to see from new 4G networks. T-Mobile's download speeds in New York City were second only to AT&T's at 1523 kbps (or 1.5 mbps).

More Cities to Get Faster T-Mobile Service

If the New York network is any indication, T-Mobile laptop and smartphone users across the country will be seeing faster speeds and better reliability by the end of this year.

Most T-Mobile devices are limited to speeds of 7.2 mbps service or slower. T-Mobile says its phones will begin making the jump to higher speeds this summer. In the meantime, users in T-Mobile's HSPA+ will be able to reach the higher speeds using a laptop modem.

T -Mobile turned on the new HSPA+ service in Philadelphia in the fall of 2009, and, the company says, has since then turned on the service in Washington DC and New York City. Los Angeles will soon get the new faster service, the company says.

T-Mobile isn't getting specific about the average speeds the network is pumping out in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington DC, but it claims that its HSPA+ technology delivers speeds that are three to five times faster than 3G service. T-Mobile also claims that its HSPA+ networks are faster than Clearwire 4G WiMAX networks.

Clearwire's chief commercial officer Mike Sievert commented that T-Mobile's network has far fewer data subscribers than Clearwire, so comparing the speeds of the two networks isn't very meaningful.

T-Mobile is investing in upgrading its 3G network while the other major U.S. wireless carriers are investing heavily in migrating their wireless networks to 4G wireless technology. T-Mobile says its upgrade has come at a cost of between $200-$300 million, while Verizon, Sprint and AT&T will spend between $8 billion and $10 billion on the move to 4G networks.

Either way, faster speeds should mean good news to the network users.

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