T-Mobile has turned on an upgrade to their 3G data network in upstate New York, Connecticut, and Providence, R.I., and said that the service upgrade will be turned on in Washington D.C. and Boston in the “coming weeks.” The upgrade, known as HSPA+, can provide as much as a 3X improvement in 3G network speeds. In their marketing material, which has AT&T a bit bent out of shape, T-Mobile claims that the network upgrade is delivering 4G speeds today. AT&T’s beef seems to be that technically HSPA+ is considered 3.5G and not 4G, but I think that like their beef with Verizon’s 3G coverage maps, which AT&T seemed to think caused confusion with voice coverage that was wrong, AT&T is wrong in their complaint about T-Mobile. T-Mobile says HSPA+ provides 4G speeds and the truth is that compared to the only true 4G provider, Sprint, they are right as many have reported not so significant speed improvements between Sprint’s 4G and 3G service.
T-Mobile has not been clear about what phones and data cards fully support the network upgrade. Kevin Tofel got a chance to test the service in the Philadelphia area, which was the first city in the U.S. to get the service, and found that when he used T-Mobile’s new webConnect Rocket Laptop USB stick he could see download speeds meeting and exceeding 10 Mbps. The webConnect stick is optimzied for the faster network, but what is encouraging is that Kevin also saw faster data network speeds using the Nexus One, which is only capable of a maximum of 7.2 Mbps. Given Kevin’s experience, I think it is safe to say all their 3G phones will see a speed improvement, but of varying amounts. T-Mobile will be rolling out the upgrade across the entire network during the course of the year, so if you are on T-Mobile I recommend following @TMobile_USA on Twitter to watch for announcements of future upgrades.