T-Mobile Expands HSPA+ 4G Network to 8 New Cities

T-Mobile's self-described 4G footprint now includes eight new metro areas. By year's end, it plans to cover 100 metropolitan areas, as Verizon shoots to bring LTE to 38.

America's "largest 4G network" just got a little larger. Or so says T-Mobile. On Nov. 23, the country's fourth-largest carrier announced that it has expanded its HSPA+ network to eight new metro areas: Detroit; Grand Junction, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; Lafayette and South Bend, Ind.; Montgomery, Ala.; Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va.; and Youngstown, Ohio.

By the end of 2010, the carrier plans to cover 100 metropolitan areas and 200 million people. While WiMax and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) have widely been considered the two types of 4G technology, in early November T-Mobile decided to call its HSPA+ network "4G"-despite previously referring to it as 3.5G, while saying it offers speeds comparable to, if not faster than, some 4G efforts.

In a Nov. 2 television commercial, T-Mobile began branding itself "America's Largest 4G Network," while additionally taking a swipe at competitor AT&T, which-largely due to the data needs of its iPhone customers-has had a hard enough time even maintaining consistent 3G speeds. It also shows off the HTC-made, but T-Mobile branded myTouch 4G, which is capable of enjoying the network's speedy new capabilities.

"With typical download speeds that are on par with or faster than competing 4G technologies, T-Mobile customers with the latest 4G devices in more than 80 metropolitan areas around the country can now enjoy blazing fast Web browsing, seamless video streaming and quicker downloads at no additional cost," T-Mobile said in a statement. "Continuing the aggressive expansion of our 4G network, T-Mobile is on pace to expand its HSPA+ footprint to reach 200 million people by the end of this year-with plans to move to faster speeds (42M bps) in 2011."

The day before T-Mobile's announced expansion, Verizon Wireless, which was expected to be the second major carrier-behind Sprint, which offers 4G via Clearwire's WiMax network-to begin rolling out 4G, confirmed that it will begin offering its LTE network in December. With T-Mobile calling dibs on quantity, Verizon instead went for the quality hook in its labeling, describing itself the "most advanced 4G network in the world." By the end of 2010, Verizon executives expect the network to cover 38 metropolitan areas and 60 commercial airports.

While T-Mobile may be accused of playing fast and loose with the term "4G"-which in marketing speak has come to mean "really fast"-so, too, may Verizon, as neither network meets the 100M-bps speeds for mobile devices that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has proposed as a requirement for the 4G standard.

However inexact the labeling, both networks are, by early accounts, fast. And fast enough for the U.S. government. T-Mobile announced Nov. 28 that it has won a contract with the Internal Revenue Service. With the Obama administration having set a goal of boosting the number of federal employees who work remotely to 150,000 in 2011, T-Mobile said in a statement that it can be, for the IRS, a "partner that can make mobile productivity gains and decreased mobile expenses a reality."