Tag Archives | T-Mobile

CES 2011: T-Mobile's Tablets and Network Upgrade

 

Dell Streak 7

 

T-Mobile USA has rolled out new tablets from Dell and LG, a new USB stick for upping end users’ access times, and intends to double the speed of its underlying network, all in the face of intensifying 4G wireless competition from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

In announcing the availability of the Android 2.2-based Dell Streak 7 tablet over the next few weeks during a CES news conference, T-Mobile also gave quick sneak peeks at a second tablet, dubbed the G Slate, and the new speed stick from ZTE.

At a press reception afterward on Thursday night, I did a bit of hands-on with the Streak 7, while getting perspectives from a couple of T-Mobile engineers about how T-Mobile’s network stacks up against the rivals.

The G Slate and new 42 Mbps USB speed stick were both absent at the reception, however. A spokesperson told me that T-Mobile is keeping both devices away from close-up scrutiny for the moment, since the gear is still under development. The G Slate is T-Mobile’s emerging version of LG’s Honeycomb tablet.

As you might expect, the Streak 7 looks like a jumbo edition of Dell’s Streak 5 phone-tablet. If you like a larger screen, you’ll obviously get that in the Streak 7, but the Streak 7 lacks the Streak 5’s voice calling capabilities.

The Streak 7 sports a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, Swype navigation, and rear- and front-facing cameras. The front-facing camera supports Qik video conferencing.

The Android-based tablet also supports Android Market, of course, although T-Mobile only loaded the Streak with a few applications for the press demos, including Angry Birds and a T-Mobile user access test app.

The touch screen seemed admirably responsive when I used it to play around with Android Market and the test app. In test results, I came up with 3103 Kbps on the downlink and 1143 Kbps on the uplink over T-Mobile’s existing network.

Brian Olsen, a senior technology engineer at T-Mobile, told me that test results had been better earlier in the day, but that latency seemed to be increasing with the convergence of more and more techies upon Las Vegas.

Notably, though, elsewhere in and around CES, people keep complaining that the wireless networks of Verizon, Sprint and AT&T are getting bogged down, too.

T-Mobile already offers a USB speed stick, but the current stick supports network speeds of only 21 Mbps.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile plans to double the speed of its underlying network by bonding new HSPA+ cell towers with existing ones. T-Mobile is dubbing its new network HSPA+ 42, said Mark McDiarmid, T-Mobile’s senior director of engineering and operations, in an interview at the press reception.

The carrier expects to start the network upgrade in its top 25 US markets, later expanding to the remaining top 100 markets, all of which now have 3G in place.

T-Mobile’s network upgrade strategy is quicker and more cost effective than the approaches Verizon is taking with LTE and Sprint is following with WiMax, because unlike the others, T-Mobile doesn’t need to install new types of cell towers, McDiarmid said.

Speeds on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 network will be comparable to those of Verizon’s LTE 4G network, according to the engineer.

Also, since T-Mobile isn’t building a whole new network architecture, its sped up network will be backward compatible with older tablets and phones, meaning that end users won’t need to buy new devices, he told me.


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A Boost for T-Mobile Phones

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Wilson Electronics 4G AWS

Price: Approximately $599

T-Mobile may have decided that its HSPA+ network qualifies as 4G, but there’s no such thing as wireless data that’s fast enough, or one that never drops a call. So Wilson Electronics, which specializes in products for improving cell-phone reception, is releasing the 4G AWS, a in-building signal booster which it claims can improve the strength of T-Mobile HSPA+ phones by up to twenty times. The company says it’ll release it in the first quarter of 2011; the pricetag–about $599–presumably leaves it appealing mostly to businesses and to consumers who really want improved reception.


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Report: 80% Chance of iPhone Coming to T-Mobile

Here we go again! This time it’s Cult of Mac, with a “highly placed source” saying T-Mobile is going to start selling the iPhone in the third quarter of this year. In English, that means the device would appear in the next two months or so. Talks are apparently in an “advanced stage,” and the source puts the odds at about 80 percent that it’s going to happen.

This would be a huge victory for the nation’s fourth largest carrier. Verizon has been long rumored to be the next US carrier to get the iPhone once the AT&T exclusivity ends (whenever that is). But certainly, Verizon’s marketing has turned markedly more anti-Apple in recent weeks. That’s certainly NOT the way to court the company that you are apparently trying to court.

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Sprint + T-Mobile? LTE Holds the Key

When rumors of Sprint and T-Mobile first cropped up in March 2008 thanks to Merril Lynch analysts, quite a few pundits out there thought it was a perfect idea to get the carrier on equal footing with its much bigger competitors. There’s a huge problem however with this marriage: cellular technology.

In current form, a Sprint and T-Mobile merger would be a hodgepodge. You’d have a CDMA network (Sprint), an iDEN network (Nextel), and a GSM network (T-Mobile). None of these technologies are really compatible, nor is there a phone out there that could successfully jump from one tower and technology to another.

But of all people, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has started the conversation anew. He told the Financial Times Tuesday that a pairing would have some “logic” to it. How? Pretty simple — Sprint could viably build an LTE network to partner with its WiMAX efforts, and T-Mobile is also on the path to the same technology as well.

(It should be mentioned that within say two to three years, the topic of cellular technology is going to be pretty much moot as all the major carriers save Sprint have considerable LTE plans. Benefit to the consumer? You bet. Manufacturers won’t have to worry about producing two versions of the same phone.)

Sprint is serious about its LTE move: it is already seeking bids to deploy the technology over its network. This is not to say it’s forgetting about WiMAX: the way the FT is reporting, it sounds like that’s part of what Sprint is looking for bidders to do.

No matter what the talk is, the only way T-Mobile would be able to effectively compete with either Verizon or AT&T is through a merger. It’s running short of spectrum — always an issue for the nation’s fourth biggest carrier — and coverage still remains spotty even after nearly a decade on US soil.

In one fell swoop, those problems could be alleviated. But the sticking point still remains the technology. No LTE for Sprint will mean no merger, and I think that’s pretty clear.


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T-Mobile Discontinues Sidekick, Ponders Options

Yesterday it was the Microsoft Kin that got the axe. Today, its a much more popular phone that is riding off into the sunset. T-Mobile said Thursday that all sales of its popular Sidekick QWERTY device would be halted after the close of business Friday. The move would end a six-year relationship with Danger, who is now owned by Microsoft.

It’s not clear whether or not this move has anything to do with the Kin announcement. The Sidekick and Microsoft’s social phone are somewhat related: the Kin was developed with the help of the folks from Danger, although it was based on Microsoft’s code and not the Danger OS.

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Analyst Says T-Mobile USA is iPhone's Next U.S. Home

Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu is made waves today by saying T-Mobile could be the next carrier in the U.S. to get the iPhone, saying that the changes to the iPhone necessary would be much less since it operates on the same technology (GSM) as current exclusive carrier AT&T.

The statement goes against the prevailing wisdom that Apple would turn to Verizon to continue expanding availability of the device. AT&T operates its 3G network in the 1900MHz band, whereas T-Mobile uses the 1700/2100MHz band. Both use the 850MHz band, meaning Apple would only need to add a single band (1700MHz) to make 3G work fully. iPhone 4 and the 3GS have already added the 2100MHz band.

With 34 million subscribers, T-Mobile would provide a significant new market for Apple. Add to this that the Cupertino company already offers the iPhone on T-Mobile’s European carriers and such a partnership is not too far fetched. Wu says that the phone could arrive as early as this fall.

Representatives with T-Mobile said that while they would love to carry the device, “ultimately it is Apple’s decision,” and refused to comment further on any speculation.

Personally, while I think it’s the logical thing to do, I don’t think its the best idea from a business sense. Verizon has some 93 million customers, which would obviously mean a much larger potential market for Apple. Spending money on development of a CDMA-capable device may not be such a bad idea.

Either way, we seem to go through this every so many months lately so I’m not expecting the iPhone to go anywhere until Apple says it will. And from all the statements — and its actions too- it appears Apple is still happy to be with AT&T.

[Hat tip: Associated Press]


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One Small Step for Wireless Customers

I don’t like signing up for two-year contracts when I buy a phone–in fact, I’ve frequently chosen to buy phones at full price and therefore avoid the commitment. But there’s been one giant argument against doing so: Wireless carriers charge folks who pay up front for a phone exactly the same monthly fee that they get from customers who opt to get the phone cheap in return for signing a contract.

Effectively, full-price phone buyers are paying back the subsidy to the carrier even though they weren’t subsidized in the first place. That’s why I reluctantly but rationally signed up for a two-year Verizon contract last week when I bought a Droid. (The Droid only works on Verizon in the first place, so it’s not like I have the option of leaving the carrier a few months from now and using the handset with another carrier.)

Now T-Mobile has become the first U.S. carrier to do the right thing: As Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times reports, it’s charging people who pay list price for phones less for monthly service than it does subsidy customers. By forgoing the subsidy, you’ll save money over the long run and won’t be locked into a relationship with T-Mobile; assuming you’ve got the cash on hand, it clearly becomes the smartest way to buy a phone.

Bravo, T-Mobile. May AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon follow your lead…


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FCC Gets Google To Cut Nexus One Return Fee By $200

Google’s $350 “Equipment Recovery Fee” has pretty much received a universally poor reception among consumers. Complaints have flooded user forums, and apparently some have taken it as far as the Federal Communications Commission. Good news: the FCC’s intervention has seemed to have forced the company’s hand.

Effective immediately, the fee has been dropped to $150. This would not allow a user to escape T-Mobile’s $200 early termination fee — that would still be due to the carrier outside of it’s normal 14-day return period. To be fair to Google, it seems as if people’s complaints are more about the service than the device itself.

Being a former T-Mobile subscriber (and one for nearly seven years before switching to AT&T), I feel these people’s pain. Service when you have it is good — however 3G is extremely spotty, and in many rural locales you will have absolutely no service at all.

Now, in the defense of T-Mobile and Google, company officials are saying they are not making these changes due to pressure from the FCC. Needless to say — the FCC has been looking into these excess charges, which several commissioners have already said they thought were too excessive — and the commission itself has received thousands of complaints from consumers.


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Nexus One Specs

Engadget has what are allegedly detailed specs for Google’s Nexus One Android phone. (They look nice, but not particularly enthralling–although it’s supposed to have an OLED screen, which is a pro.) Engadget’s tipster says that the phone will be invite-only at first (like Gmail or Google Voice, I guess). It’s also said to run a flavor of wireless connectivity that only does 3G on T-Mobile in the U.S.–on AT&T, you’d drop back to EDGE. That sounds like a major limitation, and one that essentially makes this a T-Mobile phone, whether or not it’s sold unlocked and/or without a subsidy or contract…


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