In November, T-Mobile told us that they were upgrading their 3G network to HSPA 7.2 before the end of the year (which would provide faster 3G data service). We watched and waited, but no changes were noticed in the first couple days of the new year.
On January 5th, I contacted T-Mobile to check on the status of the rollout and was given the following response.
“HSPA 7.2 (faster 3G data service) is now enabled across T-Mobile’s entire 3G network.”T-Mobile USA
What did we find? Did the upgrade give T-Mobile the fastest 3G network in the U.S.?
For the majority of T-Mobile’s customers, the answer was no.
After doing some more research it appears T-Mobile did in fact “enable” HSPA 7.2, but they have not increased the backhaul speeds to many of their 3G nodes. This would explain why many users reported some of the benefits of HSPA 7.2 like decreased latency (ping times under 199), but most of the download speeds remained in the same range.
CIO.com recently questioned T-Mobile about their HSPA 7.2 upgrade and was told:
“[W]e are continuing to increase backhaul in-line with our network upgrades to support these faster speeds. We have not released additional details at this time, but I’ll keep you posted on T-Mobile network news as we have more details to share.”T-Mobile USA
A few select markets like New York and Philadelphia do have increased bandwidth and those users reported download speeds between 3-5 Mbps. However, the majority of the responses in our testing did not see download speeds that exceeded 1 Mbps.
By comparison, AT&T is still advertising they have The nation’s fastet 3G network and that claim is still valid. AT&T currently supports HSPA 3.6 in most markets and has started their own upgrade to HSPA 7.2. I have several friends with iPhones and they get download speeds of 1-2 Mbps.
T-Mobile’s new 3G network could still become the fastest in 2010. The carrier is already preparing for a nationwide upgrade to HSPA+ by mid 2010 (which supports download speeds up to 21 Mbps), but that means nothing without the adequate backhaul to provide the increased bandwidth for users.
We applaud T-Mobile for upgrading to HSPA 7.2, but it has been a letdown so far. Hopefully their work continues behind the scenes and we will see increased data speeds later this year.