T-Mobile testing iPhone compatible 3G network; iPhone announcement looming?

Sat, Jun 9, 2012


Of all the major cell carriers in the US, T-Mobile is now the only one that doesn’t carry the iPhone. And make no mistake about it, it’s having an adverse affect on T-Mobile’s bottom line.

A few months ago, T-Mobile released their earnings for the fourth quarter of 2012 and disclosed that they had lost over 800,000 subscribers from October 2011 to December 2011.

Why you ask?

Well, to answer that hardly requires any insight at all. T-Mobile itself attributed the defection of subscribers to the iPhone.

Sequentially, the decline in branded net contract customers was driven primarily by higher branded contract deactivations as a result of the launch of the iPhone 4S by three nationwide competitors in mid-October.

Put simply, T-Mobile doesn’t have the iPhone, is losing customers as a result, and probably can’t wait until it does have the iPhone.

As it stands now, iPhone users can jailbreak their device and get on T-Mobile’s network, albeit on Edge. But 9to5Mac had an interesting, and perhaps revealing, report just recently.

A reader reports that while walking by San Francisco’s Moscone West with his unlocked iPhone 4 on T-Mobile’s network today, he noticed something strange and perhaps very exciting for those million or more iPhone users on T-Mobile’s US network.

His iPhone popped over to “3G” for just one block. It went back to “EDGE” as he left the WWDC area. Our reader walked across Moscone again, saw 3G for one block, and then EDGE appeared when he got a few hundred feet away.

He has been near Moscone before and never noticed 3G.

It would appear that T-Mobile might be beefing up its network with a 1900MHz MicroCell for Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, as most wireless carriers SHOULD.

Reason to get excited? Well, depends on how coy you believe T-Mobile is being. In an update issued to 9to5Mac, the carrier explained that everything was just a coincidence.

While upgrading coverage inside the West side of the Moscone Center, T-Mobile has also deployed 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band to test the live network on a small scale. As part of the company’s previously announced $4 billion network modernization effort, T-Mobile plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in a large number of markets by the end of the year, which will make our 4G network compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone.

NOTE: The time and location of this test is just coincidental.

Or is it?

Remember T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray had this to say back in March during a Q&A session when asked about whether or not T-Mobile’s network would be compatible with the iPhone.

 A nice side benefit of the refarming effort is that our 4G network will be compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone. The other important benefit of our network modernization effort is the coverage improvements it will deliver, especially when it comes to in-home coverage.

And whadyaknow, the iPhone 5, or whatever Apple plans to call it, is largely believed to come with 4G LTE support. Also, Apple has increasingly been rolling out the iPhone to more regional carriers along with carriers such as Cricket and there are rumors that it’s coming to Virgin Mobile as well. It only makes sense that Apple round things out by getting T-Mobile involved as well.


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