T-Mobile’s iPhone-friendly network overhaul: 2 cities down, 227 to go

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T-Mobile’s network overhaul may not be going as quickly as some unlocked iPhone owners may have hoped, but it is happening. On Monday, T-Mobile said in a blog post that it has successfully retuned its 3G network in Kansas City to the 1900 MHz PCS band, which just happens to make it compatible with all generations of the iPhone.

KC is only the second city T-Mobile has officially announced as upgraded – Las Vegas was the first – but there has been a lot of activity going on behind the scenes since T-Mo started this process in the summer. Website Airportal.de is keeping a tally of HSPA+ sightings in T-Mobile’s PCS frequencies. The submissions are all unverified, but the map shows activity in dozens of cities from Boston to Los Angeles.

T-Mobile isn’t selling the iPhone, of course, but the carrier has always aggressively recruited iPhone owners to its SIM-card plans. T-Mobile claims to have more than 1 million customers on such bring-your-own-iPhone plans. The problem was, until now, it wasn’t able to offer those customers anything beyond 2G data speeds due to the incompatibility of the iPhone’s 3G radios with the T-Mobile network. With the network overhaul, that all changes.

T-Mobile expects to complete the relocation of its HSPA+ network – which T-Mobile refers to as 4G – in its entire 229-market footprint by mid-2013. After that it will build an LTE network in the spectrum HSPA+ vacated. At that point, T-Mobile also hopes to have closed its merger with MetroPCS, which will give its sizable hunks of new 4G bandwidth in key cities like New York and San Francisco. By the time the overhaul is complete in 2014, T-Mobile’s networks will by in synch with those of the other major North American operators, and hopefully that spells the end of T-Mobile’s long incompatibility with Apple devices.

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