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Looks like we’ll see a T-Mobile iPhone (with LTE) this spring

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We won’t have to wait long to see that long-awaited T-Mobile-branded iPhone. In an interview Reuters at CES 2013, T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere said the iPhone would begin appearing on store shelves in the next three or four months.

Though Legere and T-Mobile haven’t said explicitly which Apple(s aapl) device or devices the carrier would sell, the timing would put T-Mobile in line to retail the current-generation iPhone 5 a good four to five months before the smartphone is likely to be refreshed this fall. There’s also the off chance that T-Mobile might be a candidate for the rumored “cheap iPhone” Apple is supposedly developing.

Mobilize 2012 Neville Ray T-Mobile
Neville Ray, CTO, T-Mobile (c) 2012 Pinar Ozger [email protected]

What’s more, T-Mobile probably wouldn’t have to sell the iPhone as a mere 3G device as many international operators and smaller U.S. carriers are forced to do. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray revealed at T-Mo’s big CES event that he would have a good portion of his LTE network online by mid-2013. Couple that with Ray’s rapidly accelerating HSPA+ network upgrade around the country, and T-Mobile will be able to support all of the iPhone 5’s connectivity capabilities in many of its markets at launch. Not bad for a carrier that couldn’t get anything more than a 2G signal to the iPhone just six months ago.

T-Mobile originally planned to launch LTE in the second half of this year, making it the last U.S. operator to deploy the latest generation mobile broadband technology. T-Mobile is still behind its primary competitors, but management has apparent lit a fire under Ray’s engineering team. At CES, Ray said T-Mo’s first LTE systems would go online in Las Vegas in the next few weeks, which would put him five months ahead of schedule.

The iPhone won’t be the only device benefiting from T-Mobile’s accelerated LTE plans. Samsung's Galaxy S III MiniThe Verge is reporting that T-Mobile will soon offer an LTE version of the Samsung’s popular Galaxy S III smartphone. Though The Verge didn’t name a launch date, the device could hit shelves well in advance of the actual LTE launch since T-Mobile could activate its LTE radios at any time with a simple over-the-air software update.

T-Mobile had a big CES. In addition to the LTE and iPhone revelations, T-Mobile made multiple updates to its technology and service plans.

  • My colleague Kevin Tofel wrote about T-Mobile’s plans to take unlimited smartphone plans contract-free, answering one of T-Mobile customers’ biggest gripes. T-Mobile is moving to an unsubsidized model, meaning customers will either pay full freight for their devices, bring their own phones or buy them in installments. Since contracts are supposed to cover carriers’ upfront subsidy costs, enforcing contracts with no subsidy makes little sense. It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile moves away from contracts completely as it phases out subsidies this year.
  • T-Mobile revealed its network is now high-definition-voice compatible, which means it can support a much higher call quality than current cellular voice systems. Three current devices – the Galaxy S III, the HTC One S and the Nokia(s nok) Astound phone – will support the HD features, but there are also some big limitations to its initial appeal. As PC Mag’s Sascha Segan explains, HD calls will only work between T-Mobile devices that both have the HD client, and so far T-Mo’s technology is incompatible with any of the HD codecs other carriers are working on.
  • In order to encourage devices other than smartphones onto is network, T-Mobile is offering 200 MB of free data each month for two years on select Windows 8(s MSFT) laptops. Called 4G Connect, the program could get really interesting if T-Mobile expands it tablets, providing a big incentive for consumers to buy 4G versions of the iPad and other slates.
  • T-Mobile has upgraded its HSPA+ network to support iPhone frequencies in four more markets: Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego and Virginia Beach, Va. The network refarming is now complete in 46 cities covering 126 million people. The reconfiguration is key to T-Mobile supporting the iPhone’s data capabilities, and at its current pace should be largely complete at the iPhone’s launch.

11 Responses to “Looks like we’ll see a T-Mobile iPhone (with LTE) this spring”

  1. Some guy

    The bottom line is price and T-Mobile costs less. Mobile service in the US is a huge rip-off especially for someone like me who makes a call maybe 5-6 times a month, so the less I get ripped off the better. I am sure the other carries have better service but there is just no chance that I’ll “jump ship” and pay $100+ a month on mobile service.

  2. Been with T-Mobile since before they were T-Mobile…1997.
    I have lived through the gawdawful deterioration in service, coverage and customer service in the past 3 years here in KC.
    For 2 years we have been told that “they” are working to “upgrade” their service in the KC area.
    We’ve even been told that “they” are upgrading KC “first” because Sprint is HQ’d here.
    So we still have lousy coverage and lots of promises.
    Oh it says “4G” on the phone’s screen and shows 4 bars coverage but it takes 60-120 seconds for even a simple page to load if it loads at all. And this is NOT isolated it is NORMAL.
    And now “they” are promising LTE? with an i-Phone?
    To quote Bill Cosby as Noah: “RIIIIGHT”.
    Doesn”t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

  3. savage1701

    Been a T-Mobile customer for a couple of years now. Pitiful coverage. Only saving grace is that many of their phones will pigg-back off a WiFi signal from a WiFi hotspot.

    I get “1G” speed in our city of 35,000 sitting right off a major interstate.

    Those T-Mobile commercials about all their fast speeds are a joke. Our city got cell service in 1986. If you are using T-Mobile in our city you have the same level of performance you had 27 years ago.

  4. This is a good come up for Tmobile. I believe this will put them on the map. Sprint doesnt even have a iphone do they? Hmph, Well ive been a loyal T-mobile customer for 5 years n& counting. I plan on getting this Iphone. Plus, im pretty sure my bill will be lower than most carriers…

  5. I’m in SoZcl, just south of LA and still enjoying that blistering 2G EDGE speed on my brand new iPhone 5 …. They actually told me to my face that i should have 3G/4G speed where I live back in December (early December) – THAT was a lie.. Now, it’s LTE !!!!

    Anybody wanna bet that’s a LIE TOO??????

    • Andrew J Shepherd

      Who is “they”? Are you, perhaps, talking about stores sales reps or call center operators? “They” are entry level employees who know next to nothing and are told next to nothing. If you take their words as the voice of a company, honestly, that is your fault for naiveté. Sorry.


    • PaulandMorgan Orem

      I’ll agree with you. What an employee says is the voice of the company. Do your shopping for a car and you walk on to the BMW lot to see whats new and the sales rep. tells you that all the cars they sell come with the all the bluetooth, gps, and a big screen TV in the back. I for one would trust the BMW rep. more than a guy from KIA.

      Theres a plan to every company and what they tell you is the face they want to show. So when an employee lies it shows a lot about what the company is all about. the only differance is in personal gain, and then the employee could be fired.