updated 09:15 pm EST, Wed November 5, 2008
TMobile goes direct to LTE
After remaining silent for quite some time, T-Mobile on Tuesday confirmed its plans for its 4G LTE network, as well as what it will do with its current 3G network. Unstrung reports that T-Mobile is excluding HSPA+ from its network expansion plans, instead opting to focus purely on LTE, mainly due to matters of efficiency. "If I need to invest into more hardware, I think it's better to start early [with LTE]," said Joachim Horn, Chief Technology Officer. "LTE is a more future-oriented technology."
The company will not be completely forgetting about developing its 3G network, however, but will not invest in hardware replacement. "We'll do every other efficiency increase that's software-based," Horn claimed. That leaves the potential to double its current downlink speed of 7.2Mbit per second HSDPA to 14.4Mbit per second. The next step, HSPA+, could double the speed again to 28.8Mbit per second, but the necessary antenna upgrades would require the hardware investment that the company is trying to avoid.
The company is certainly taking a gamble with the technology, and the success of its tactics will depend on its competitors' choices and the LTE system coming to fruition on time. "If another operator in one of T-Mobile's markets launches 28.8 Mbit/s, and meanwhile LTE is still a long way away from mass market maturity, it's going to be difficult for T-Mobile stick to its guns and hold the line at 14.4 Mbit/s," said Patrick Donegan, senior analyst for Heavy Reading.
Horn acknowledged the uncertainty of when the technology will be ready for launch, but seemed confident with a prediction. "We believe the middle to the end of 2010 is when we'll see the first test networks," he said. The commitment to LTE and development of compatible networks could also influence the mobile device manufacturers to put the technology at a higher priority.
T-Mobile is not alone in the initial LTE push, however, and is joined with large companies including China Mobile Communications, NTT DoCoMo, and Verizon. Several other competitors plan to hold back and wait for others to launch first, such as AT&T which will save its LTE trials until 2010 .