There's a lot of talk among North American wireless carriers about 4G technologies -- namely, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Wimax. But with the exception of Sprint Nextel Corp., the talk hasn't resulted in deployments yet.
The wireless ecosystem of equipment vendors, chipset makers and device manufacturers is still in flux, which is why T-Mobile USA is upgrading its legacy 3G network, which is based on the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), to what's been called a 3.5G technology -- Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+). Mark McDiarmid, T-Mobile USA Inc.'s senior director of engineering and operations, spoke with SearchTelecom.com about why HSPA+ makes more sense today for the carrier than LTE or Wimax.
The industry is rallying around 4G technologies, so why is T-Mobile pursuing a 3G technology -- HSPA+?
McDiarmid: I think it's interesting because T-Mobile certainly has a deep heritage with LTE and 4G. We're a global leader in the technology development of LTE, and we actually have operations in Europe which are live with 4G technologies -- both Wimax and LTE. T-Mobile is pretty familiar with the technology development -- the maturity of the technology -- the economics of the technology and how it translates into the device ecosystem.
So, what does that mean for T-Mobile US? Firstly, we know that consumers want to have a broad range of devices at great prices. They want to have smartphones that have not only great data experiences on browsing and Web access, but they want to have great voice experiences and great messaging. We think HSPA+ is the right technology to bring that to market right now, and there's evidence that we can get great devices at great prices -- both at the lower end of the market and at the higher of the market.
How will the HSPA+ upgrade affect existing 3G services, including voice and messaging?
McDiarmid: One of the great benefits of HSPA+ is, as a technology, it's completely backward-compatible with 3G and the voice services and messaging services that customers enjoy today. For the vast majority of T-Mobile's 3G subscriber base, they're going to get a free upgrade here for their Internet browsing. HSPA+ is like a series of turbo chargers on the network that enhances the data experience dramatically. But it does not affect the traditional voice and messaging that we already have, so it's completely complementary.