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UPGRADE: Say good-bye to 1900 MHz only GSM phones in the U.S.
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 19.12.05 - 19:04:19 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 9322x
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T-Mobile has acquired as many as possible GSM 850 MHz frequencies during the past months to roll-out their GSM 850 MHz network to improve coverage and reception, according an interview with T-Mobile's senior vice president of Engineering Operations, Neville Ray, posted on BetaNews.

The 850 MHz roll-out will be mainly throughout the central part of the United States. However, the rollout would also include rural areas of the Northeast and West. Altogether, nearly 400,000 square miles of new coverage has been added during 2005, according to Ray.

"We've secured this year effectively all of the 850 footprint that was out there," he said. "There may be some incremental increases next year, but they will not be significant."

The difference is already clear; large swaths of the Plains states now have coverage, and a T-Mobile subscriber could now drive roads like Interstate 80 from coast to coast with much fewer service disruptions than before.

Ray explained that the reason why 850 has become popular, especially in rural America, is due to its propagation characteristics. "An 850 signal does propagate further than a 1900 signal," he said, explaining that a carrier can build less towers yet still have the same network coverage.

In the U.S., 1900 MHz has been the most commonly used frequency for digital cellular service, similar to the 1800 MHz band in Europe. Although their European counterparts use 900 MHz for rural areas, stateside carriers have turned to the 850 MHz band to maximize network coverage.

For GSM users over in the US it means, that from now, also for T-Mobile customers a quad-band GSM device is required. Before, only Cingular used GSM 850 and 1900 while T-Mobile launched in the mid-90's with GSM 1900 only. Therefore, a European tri-band GSM device (like the HTC Magician) was good enough for T-Mobile customers but if T-Mobile opens more and more 850 MHz sites now, this isn't enough anymore.
Therefore I strongly suggest to make sure that your next Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition or Smartphone is future-ready by supporting all 4 GSM-bands. This isn't that important for Europeans or Asians who might travel to the US once or twice a year but for sure it's important for Americans. The downside is, that there are still less quad-band devices then tri-band devices which might limit the portfolio of available devices (for instance the Samsung SGH-i300 Windows Mobile Smartphone is tri-band only and therefore it's not recommended for T-Mobile customers anymore).

Cheers ~ Arne

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