Dec 09 AT 6:51 PM Taylor Wimberly 16 Comments

Hands on: How fast is T-Mobile’s new 3G?

No site has been as excited as us about the looming 3G upgrade for T-Mobile. The nation’s fourth largest carrier is about to roll out an update to all of their 3G nodes that will upgrade them to the faster HSPA 7.2 standard.

A short little lesson on HSPA from Wikipedia:

High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) is a collection of two mobile telephony protocols High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA), that extend and improve the performance of existing WCDMA protocols. HSDPA and HSUPA provide increased performance by using improved modulation schemes and by refining the protocols by which handsets and base stations communicate. These improvements lead to a better utilization of the existing radio bandwidth provided by WCDMA. It also reduces latency and provides up to five times more system capacity in the downlink and up to twice as much system capacity in the uplink.

T-Mobile’s current 3G network operates on HSPA 3.6 (or 1.8) and the upgrade to HSPA 7.2 will be achieved by a software update to their existing 3G nodes. This is what will allow them to quickly deploy HSPA 7.2 by then end of 2009 and fully deploy HSPA+ by mid-2010.

Evolved HSPA (or HSPA+) provides data rates up to 42 Mbps down and 11 Mbps up, but T-Mobile will only initially support 21 Mbps down with their scheduled HSPA+ update.

So how fast is it?

In theory, HSPA 7.2 should provide 7.2 Mbps downlink speeds, but how fast are the real world tests? Kevin Tofel from jkOnTheRun has posted some hands on results from Philadelphia, where T-Mobile is currently testing HSPA+.

In the first test he used the T-Mobile webConnect modem which supports HSPA 7.2 speeds. While this is not an Android phone, it gives us a good idea of what kinds of speeds to expect from similar hardware. As far as we know, all T-Mobile Android phones can support HSPA 7.2.

Webconnect USB modem on HSPA+.

Webconnect USB modem on T-Mobile HSPA+.

With the USB modem he was able to achieve download speeds of over 5 Mbps. This is nearly 5x faster than the average top speed of 1 Mbps we see on most T-Mobile Android phones. The upload speed is over 1 Mbps (which is faster than my cable internet at home). Finally, check out that ping time of 115 ms. HSPA+ promises lower latency and it looks T-Mobile has delivered.

These low ping times could be from a lack of congestion on the test network, but I can’t help but think about playing some multiplayer, first-person shooter games on my phone.

In the second round of tests, Mr. Tofel used the Nokia N900 phone which has a maximum speed of 10 Mbps over a HSPA network.

Nokia N900 over T-Mobile HSPA+.

Nokia N900 over T-Mobile HSPA+.

Using the same network and different equipment resulted in a 7 Mbps download speed.

Conclusion

We won’t know the actual speeds for HPSA 7.2 on Android for a couple more weeks, but we have a good picture of what is possible in the near future.

HSPA 7.2 will definitely provide a speed boost for those who live inside T-Mobile’s 3G area. The second upgrade to HSPA+ by mid-2010 should also provide an additional boost.

As far as the current Android phones go, we have confirmed they will be compatible with T-Mobile’s HSPA 7.2 and HSPA+ upgrades. I expect the devices will top off around 5-6 Mbps, but that could vary depending on manufacturer. Nokia actually promotes the fact that the N900 can do maximum speeds up to 10 Mbps (DL) and 2 Mbps (UL), but I have not seen any Android handset makers with similar claims.

Stay tuned for updates. We will be providing our own speed tests as soon as the service is available.

Source: jkOnTheRun

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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