At a time when 4G LTE is gaining mindshare, T-Mobile will continue to invest and evolve HSPA+ (T-Mobile calls it “4G” too), an incumbent wireless standard that T-Mobile thinks can provide users with the speed they need, in a more cost-effective way. We met with Katherine Barnes in San Diego. She is the Director of T-Mobile’s Product Realization group, and the slide above is part of a larger PowerPoint presentation about T-Mobile. However,  this HSPA+ portion caught my attention.As I have written before, 4G has largely become a marketing term, and even carriers would agree with this. In fact, when T-Mobile had started its “4G” campaign, it planned to get into some legal trouble for merely using the “4G” term. Instead of criticizing this, the industry as a whole jumped on the “4G” train, so T-Mobile never got any real issues with this.

While LTE is expected to dominate in sheer performance in a high-end market, HSPA+ is probably more compatible with T-Mobile’s goal to serve high-speed wireless in a cost-effective way. Katherine also pointed out that LTE devices currently face challenges in terms of battery life – something that we found in our independent reviews of LTE handsets. I’ll speculate that this is due in part to the low density of the network (less cell towers = more power to transmit data) and that things will get better, but this is today’s reality.

In many ways, it is no different from any other technology market: if you buy products based on the previous-generation technology, it probably provides the best “bang for the buck”.  T-Mobile provides a very interesting roadmap, although you need to keep in mind that we are talking about theoretical numbers up there. In the end, it comes down to “when is it good enough”?

If HSPA+ can evolve side by side with LTE, it would do exactly what T-Mobile wants it to. But will that be the case? We’ll have to observe network speeds on the ground for the next few years to truly know.

Disclaimer: we have been invited by Qualcomm, with many other established media, to attend their Uplinq event in San Diego.Our trip has been arranged by, and paid for, by Qualcomm. We always pay for our travel expenses to events like CES, MWC, CEATEC, etc… but when we are invited, we want to be transparent about it.

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