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When two mobile operators merge, it can sometimes take a year or more before they get their network ducks in a row and fully integrate their back-end systems and services. It’s been barely a month since its acquisition of MetroPCS, but T-Mobile(s tmus) seems to have wasted no time. According to media reports, MetroPCS customers can start connecting GSM and HSPA phones to T-Mobile’s network next week.
PhoneArena has gotten hold of three internal T-Mobile screenshots that show MetroPCS will soon start selling two GSM/HSPA+ phones, the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit and the LG Optimus L9, and that customers will be able to bring unlocked GSM devices such as the iPhone(s aapl) to Metro as well. By virtue of using the global GSM standard, T-Mobile can actually start issuing SIM cards to Metro customers, which is exactly what it appears set to do.
To put this in context, AT&T(s t) spent years running two separate network operations — which it called Orange and Blue — after Cingular acquired AT&T Wireless. To be fair, T-Mobile isn’t merging its network with Metro’s. It’s shutting Metro’s CDMA systems down completely, harvesting their spectrum for future T-Mobile’s LTE and HSPA+ networks. T-Mobile, however, plans to maintain the MetroPCS brand for prepaid services, so this move represents more an integration of customer management and billing systems than it does a complete integration of operations.
Still, if PhoneArena’s report proves true, it shows T-Mobile is serious about completing its network overhaul as fast as possible. The faster it gets those MetroPCS customers off of CDMA phones, the sooner it can shut down Metro’s networks.
But there’s a definite benefit for Metro customers as well. They get access to much bigger variety of phones, including devices like the iPhone that were never available to them before. They will have to pay full cost for many of those devices, but since Metro is a prepaid carrier, its customers are already accustomed to paying sticker price. Also, previously every new MetroPCS customer had to buy a new phone when they activated their service. GSM allows them to bring old devices to the network.