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T-Mobile expands its 3G network

Company plans to offer 3G coverage in more than 20 markets when it starts selling the Google Android phone in October, but will that be enough to beat out the competition?

T-Mobile USA plans to have more than 20 markets lit with 3G coverage when it begins selling the first ever Google Android phone in October. But will it be enough to entice smartphone consumers to choose the HTC Dream over the iPhone 3G or even the BlackBerry Bold?

The verdict is still out on that one.

Even though the Android-based HTC Dream hasn't been officially announced, most people believe it will support 3G speeds when T-Mobile unveils it next week. And given the fact that it will compete head-to-head with Apple's iPhone 3G and newer versions of Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices, it really needs to be 3G.

The biggest problem for T-Mobile has been its nearly nonexistent 3G network. T-Mobile launched its 3G service in New York in May. Since then, it has added service in 12 other markets including, Austin,Texas, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., San Antonio, and San Diego.

And on Thursday T-Mobile said it would expand its 3G coverage from 13 markets to 27 markets by the end of the year. The expansion will provide 3G access to more than two-thirds of T-Mobile's current customer base, the company said. T-Mobile also plans to keep expanding coverage in 2009.

By mid-October, when the HTC Dream hits the market, the company will expand 3G coverage to additional markets including, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia, Sacramento, Calif., San Francisco, and Seattle. And by the end of the year, six more markets will get 3G: Birmingham, Ala., Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, Tenn., and Tampa, Fla.

Getting the 3G service up and running in as many markets as possible is key to T-Mobile's overall strategy. But even with the planned network expansion, T-Mobile will still be woefully behind its competitors when it comes to its 3G coverage.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel have the largest 3G footprints. AT&T plans to have 3G deployed in 350 markets by the end of the year, but it has still been criticized for not having enough of its network covered with 3G to satisfy some iPhone 3G users. T-Mobile's lack of 3G coverage could lead customers--even those who are hot to try an Android phone--willing to wait for a different Android handset on another carrier's network.