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.


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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  • Fugee

    I hope that the real-world results on Android devices are as good as this. I’ve run SpeedTest on my G1 about once a week for the last month and my best speed in San Diego is 102K downstream and 44K up. My average is closer to 50K a second…

  • Craigo

    Does anyone know if there will there be a visual indication on the phone that tells us we are on a fast network? Will the 3G symbol change, or the Mobile Network Type change from UMTS?

  • Titty!


  • tjizzle

    This is cool and all butttttt…… In my opinion they shld work on increasinv coverage first. I never get 3g in my house. So im gonna have to go stand outside in the cold to enjoy blazing fast 3g. Lol that sucks.

  • http://Website David

    I don’t understand this at all… Let’s give our small coverage area a great 3G and not expand it into some major cities. My biggest problem with T-Mobile is they have 3G in 113 cities, but they left out some of the biggest cities like Cincinnati. Let’s give the 148,500 people in Joliet, IL 3G and the 2,155,137 in Cincinnati Edge.

    • http://Website Cris H

      Move to Joliet, IL

    • http://Website darkfire

      Joliet, IL and where I live is all benefiting from being a Chicago suburb and are benefiting from those upgrades

  • http://Website darkfire

    Im currently getting 2mbs in chicago. I don’t know what the max speed t-mobile is set. Here is a screenshot from speedtest.

  • jeremy

    I live in Albany.Oregon. All I have is edge on my g1. Every other town around has 3g. It would only take upgrading 1 tower which would put 3g on a large stretch on I-5 also. Granted we are a town of 50000 people who aren’t rich and would love to have great service at a lower price. There is no reason for people to jump to tmob here, but they would if the coverage was right. Bye the way…….My G1 with edge network has very comparable realtime speed to att3g and verizon 3g. The difference is only a matter of a couple seconds. Nothing to make me jump ship just to pay more and sacrifice qualityof customer service.
    I really hope T-Mobile starts spending some megabucks to spread 3g love to us who seemingly got put on the back burner. But really no 3g in Cincy?!?! Wtf!

  • juanito

    I work in Sacramento, and live in El Dorado Hills, where there is nothing but Edge. Occasionally it will flash to “G”, but as soon as I hit the browser, it drops instantly to Edge.

    While I look forward to increased speeds in Sacramento, I’d really like to at least be able to use our T-Mobile phones at home. Texts take forever to send (frequently failing) and no service inside the house (and often outside the house) is the standard expectation. Sprint and AT&T never had those issues for us. The T-Mobile coverage map shows a minimum of Edge coverage, but in reality, not so much.

  • john

    @juanito…a G is a step in the wrong direction, that’s for gprs…ie 1g

  • martin-s

    Something is going on in the dc area, I just got 906 down and 414 up from speedtest. I have been going 3g edge 3g all day. Might be an fluke, but I have never gotten anything over 400 down before.

  • http://Website permafrost91

    So where is this upgrade? Haven’t seen anything yet in South Florida …

  • http://Website lalala

    exactly, i thought T-Mobile was gonna switch on the new 3G by the end of this year and nothing has yet to happen -___-

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  • http://Website Oniel

    i currently live about 35 minutes from nyc new york. i pretty much get 3g everwhere i travel in ny, though spotty 3g coverage in a few places. The max i’ve clocked is 5.62 mbps and i haven’t tested it in manhattan as yet. Oh, i have a n900 by the way.