updated 10:20 am EST, Wed December 15, 2010
T-Mobile, Nokia vow 650Mb Long Term HSPA Evolution
Nokia Siemens Networks and T-Mobile USA today outlined early plans for an extremely fast 3G format that could let them and any other provider get better-than-4G speeds. Long Term HSPA Evolution (LTHE) would boost performance from the 42Mbps of HSPA+ today to 650Mbps. The speeds would fall short of the theoretical 1Gbps peak of LTE Advanced but should still reach a similar 100Mbps-plus in real conditions, giving future 4G speeds without the need to switch technologies altogether.
The technology is comparatively easy to add and works already on Nokia Siemens's existing single radio platform. Carriers would mostly have to increase capacity rather than overhaul whole cell sites. Towers would also be backwards compatible and scale back to regular HSPA for earlier devices.
A proposal for LTHE has already been accepted by the 3GPP standards group as of last week. Full-scale deployment will need hardware and testing, and the first networks won't be available until 2013. T-Mobile is the clear first carrier but wouldn't be exclusive.
The upgrade is likely intended to help T-Mobile justify its existing network plans, which so far have focused on HSPA+ and have seen it refer to the 3G format as 4G for marketing purposes versus Sprint, which labeled its slower WiMAX service as 4G as well. T-Mobile has struggled financially compared to AT&T and Verizon, both of which are implementing LTE and real 4G, and may use 650Mbps 3G access to get equivalent speeds without paying as much to overhaul the network.