U.S. Wireless Carriers Take Different Routes Toward Fast 4G Service

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T-Mobile Moves to HSPA+

While the other major U.S. wireless carriers invest (some heavily) in migrating their networks to 4G wireless technology, T-Mobile is investing in upgrading its existing 3G network.

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 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.

The company says its upgrade will come at a cost of between $200 and $300 million, while Verizon, Sprint and AT&T will spend between $8 billion and $10 billion on the move to 4G networks.

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.

What's It All Mean?

So what does all this technical stuff mean to me? Well, not a lot right now unless you happen to live in one of Sprint's 27 WiMAX cities.

But there is a paradigm shift going on. Just as we don't like to leave the house without the ability to make a phone call when we're out, one day soon we will feel the same way about the ability to access the Internet.

As this shift takes place, wireless networks will be increasingly taxed by more smartphone users using more and more bandwidth-hungry mobile applications. Wireless carriers are doing their best to stay ahead of the coming demand.

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