T-Mobile’s network will finally be ready to offer full-speed 3G wireless connectivity to Apple iPhone users later this year, the company announced today. The wireless carrier also said that it plans to launch its “nationwide” LTE network in 2013.
More than a million people already use unlocked iPhones on T-Mobile’s network. Unfortunately for them, iPhones are currently limited to 2G EDGE speeds. To allow for full 3G access, T-Mobile says that it will reorganize its wireless spectrum to allow unlocked AT&T 3G and some 4G-compatible handsets (including the iPhone) to work with its fast HSPA+ 42 network. Moreover, T-Mobile says that the “reframing” of its network will boost the current average download speed of 8Mbps by 33 percent, and allow for stronger signal inside buildings.
For the moment, however, T-Mobile will still not sell the iPhone simply because it has not yet struck a deal with Apple to do so. It is possible that this could change once the network overhaul is complete — though that is only speculative, but is surely what T-Mobile has in mind.
While the ability to offer iPhone owners full-speed 3G access is a step up, T-Mobile would still remain woefully behind its bigger, more advanced siblings — AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint — which offer, or (in Sprint’s case) will soon offer, 4G LTE wireless access. To fill this void, T-Mobile has tapped Ericsson and Nokia Siemens to build-out its 4G LTE network. T-Mobile says it hopes to offer LTE in 75 percent of its 25 largest markets by sometime next year.
T-Mobile had originally announced its network upgrade plans, which will cost an estimated $4 billion, in late February. At that time, T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said in a conference call that the company would offer 10 LTE-enabled devices in 2013, as well as “4G” support for the iPhone. He did not clarify at the time whether he was referring to HSPA+ 42 “4G” or LTE “4G” (neither of which are true 4G, we must add) for the iPhone, though we are guessing he meant the latter, given today’s announcement.