by Al Sacco

T-Mobile: U.S. 3G Upgrade to HSPA 7.2 NOT Complete

Jan 20, 2010
CarriersData CenterMobile

Despite a number of recent reports to the contrary, T-Mobile's 3G network upgrade to 7.2 HSPA may not be complete. Rather, the network updates appear to be ongoing.

This morning I penned a piece on why neither AT&T nor T-Mobile’s ongoing 3G network upgrades to 7.2 Mbps HSPA mean a thing to current BlackBerry smartphone owners–really, if you’re an AT&T or T-Mobile BlackBerry user, you want to read this.

Image of T-Mobile 3G information from T-Mo site

In the process, I got an interesting comment from T-Mobile regarding its recent 3G HSPA 7.2 network upgrade. Contrary to a number of media reports, it looks like T-Mobile has not completed its 3G network upgrade to 7.2Mbps HSPA.

From T-Mobile U.S.A. PR:

“[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.”

Earlier this month, T-Mobile created the initial confusion when it sent an announcement out to the media, alerting reporters, writers, editors, etc., that it had “doubled its 3G footprint to cover 200M people nationwide [and] enabled HSPA 7.2 across the network.”

That sure sounds like the HSPA 7.2 upgrade to T-Mobile’s U.S. 3G network was finished, no? But T-Mobile’s statement may have been sketchily misleading. That’s because a 3G network upgrade to 7.2 HSPA typically happens in two main stages: a software-update for all the cell-sites; and a cell-site “backhaul,” in which physical infrastructure is upgraded and/or replaced.

I’m guessing that T-Mobile completed the first stage of the upgrade process in late 2009, began the cell-site backhauls and then decided to make its announcement without clarifying what it really means to users.

T-Mobile’s statement above tells me that it’s still in the process of upgrading or installing any new infrastructure that may be required for HSPA 7.2 at some of its cell-sites. And that means HSPA may be “enabled” across its entire 3G network, but it sure isn’t available everywhere. I know from user reports that HSPA 7.2 is indeed available in some U.S. locales, so the carrier has finished both the software update and cell-site backhaul in some instances. (I can also tell you that I’m not seeing anywhere NEAR the advertised speeds on my T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 in Boston…)

As you can see from above, T-Mobile isn’t providing any additional details at this point. But it looks as though the carrier’s 3G upgrade to HSPA 7.2 is very much still ongoing.