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T-Mobile's webConnect Rocket burns up the airwaves on Philadelphia's HSPA+ network


Review by Michael Oryl on Monday March 08, 2010.

verizon · sprint · t-mobile · bluetooth / wireless reviews · t-mobile news · bluetooth / wireless news · michael oryl

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Over the course of the past month I've been testing out the beta 21Mbps HSPA+(INFO) network that T-Mobile is running in the Philadelphia area. My goal was to test out currently available HSPA(INFO) devices like the T-Mobile webConnect USB modem and Motorola CLIQ smartphone as well as upcoming HSPA+ devices like the webConnect Rocket to see what kind of speed consumers can expect. I even ran a few tests on a Sprint Overdrive 4G WiMAX modem to compare.

As T-Mobile was quick to point out, and as AT&T's overloaded data network has proven to many, there is more to 3G speed than just the connection between the phone and the local cell tower. Without proper backhaul connections to the rest of the network (and the internet), those blazing speeds to the tower are not of much use. T-Mobile claims that it has spent a lot of time and effort running fiber across its network and adding frequency spectrum to its towers to ensure that there is enough capacity and high-speed backhaul connectivity to see that data gets to where it needs to go quickly.

I used mostly web based speed testing apps found on DSLreports.com and SpeedTest.net for my tests, and ran them on my Lenovo X61s laptop in high-performance mode while running Windows XP. The web apps use servers located across the country, and no particular geographic location seemed to have too much of an impact on our tests' download and upload speeds.

The results? Pretty impressive. While I was unable to test upload speeds on the Motorola CLIQ, DSLreports.com's "iPhone" speed test provided consistent download speed ratings in the 1900Kbps to 2300Kbps range, with the average being north of 2100Kbps. That's a lot of speed for a phone, let me tell you. On a different day, T-Mobile's webConnect modem worked well, too. I ran the web browser speed tests 8 times on the webConnect connection on my laptop while standing outside with a reported full signal. The download speeds ranged from 1780kbps to 2797kbps on a couple of east coast servers, with the average download speed coming in at 2186kbps. Upload speeds were more consistent, ranging from 612kbps to 712Kbps, with an overall average of 655kbps.

Those are pretty impressive numbers, to be sure. But let's move on to see what HSPA+ is going to do for us.

To do that, I used a pre-production version of the T-Mobile webConnect Rocket USB modem that will be hitting T-Mobile retail shelves later this month. It's not the final device, but as you will see, it still laid down some impressive numbers. I did run into some snags, though. A trial run during one of the snow storms that plagued the east coast didn't pan out because of electrical power problems in the area. I ended up getting download and upload speeds both in the 650Kbps range, which was obviously not normal. Even my recent successful test ran into a snag when a nearby 3G sector had problems. The issue was highly localized, and moving a few blocks down the street fixed it, but it was a problem none the less.

While testing the webConnect Rocket in an area with a reported good, but far from perfect, signal (-77dbm), I managed speeds averaging 5600kbps down and 1009Kbps up with a 39ms response time. To put that into perspective, the fiber optic based Verizon FiOS connection in my home tests at 5130Kbps down and 1850Kbps up with a 20ms response time, making it slightly slower downloading and a bit faster up, but with a significantly quicker network latency time.

To test it further, I decided to download a roughly 100 megabyte AVI movie file - while driving. That took 3 minutes and 41 seconds to complete. Doing the same download on my home FiOS network took 3 minutes and 20 seconds, only a bit faster.

 

crimson230 @ 6:30:07PM EST on Monday March 8, 2010

Loved your article. Now, why no 3G here in Mobile,AL-Pensacola,FL market? I'm so sick of at&t :)

Carlos @ 6:01:46PM EST on Thursday March 11, 2010

Not trying to make excuses for Sprint but your comparisons would only be fair if you compared the Tmo stick to a Clear or Sprint USB stick. It's no secret that the Overdrives are having constant slow speed issues and speeds can typically be half or more than a USB stick running on the same network. Once the speed issue is addressed by a more fair comparison you should also point to the plans which are hardly comparable: $59.99 for 5GB of TMo 3G vs. $59.99 for unlimited 4G and 5GB of 3G. Quite a difference..

About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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