T-Mobile USA to Be Ready for iPhone by End of 2012, LTE Coming in 2013
T-Mobile USA yesterday announced its plans to begin work with Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks to roll out LTE service in 2013, taking advantage of spectrum it obtained from AT&T last week following the failed merger of the two carriers. But perhaps more importantly for iPhone users, T-Mobile's network improvements will allow it to offer HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band compatible with current iPhone hardware "by the end of the year".
As part of the company’s network modernization effort, T-Mobile also plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in a large number of markets by the end of the year. Network modernization trials have shown up to a 33 percent increase in HSPA+ data speeds as well as improved in-building coverage. Rolling out 4G HSPA+ services in the 1900 MHz band will also provide customers with the ability to use a broader range of devices, including the iPhone, on T-Mobile’s 4G network.
T-Mobile already has over one million iPhone customers on its network and has been beefing up support for those customers even though they are currently limited to T-Mobile's much slower EDGE data network.
T-Mobile USA began refarming its spectrum late last year, allowing a small number of users to access 3G speeds on the 1900 MHz band compatible with the iPhone. With yesterday's announcement, that refarming will spread nationwide and make it possible for the carrier to fully support the iPhone without Apple being required to build hardware specific to T-Mobile and a handful of other carriers using the 1700/2100 MHz AWS bands for their 3G/4G service.
AllThingsD notes that T-Mobile USA Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray acknowledged that the spectrum refarming will allow the carrier to aggressively target current AT&T customers whose contracts have lapsed by the end of the year.
Ray declined to comment on whether the company would directly target iPhone users in a big marketing push planned for later this year.
“It would make sense,” Ray agreed, but added, “We’re not there yet.”
Apple is widely expected to include LTE support in the next-generation iPhone, and a September-October release in line with rumors would still leave T-Mobile behind the curve with its LTE network not rolling out until 2013. But the carrier would certainly be in a much more competitive position simply by offering a fast HSPA+ network supporting the iPhone.