T-Mobile CTO Says Network Will Be “Should Be Ready” For iPhone Users By Fourth Quarter

While T-Mobile may have hinted at the iPhone operating on their network later this year, a point reiterated this evening through a press release announcing the selection of vendors to build out their LTE network, they aren’t saying if they will directly target iPhone users. Now, let’s clarify one thing as this report follows reports from recent months that show T-Mobile is working to support the iPhone on their network with a 1900MHz refarming effort and not necessarily a sign they will sell the iPhone through a subsidy.

At a dinner event in New Orleans this evening, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said the effort to refarm the 1900 band would reach a critical point in the fourth quarter this year allowing T-Mobile to aggressively court AT&T subscribers that are no longer in contract.

Ray declined to say if T-Mobile will directly target these customers through any kind of marketing effort.

“It would make sense,” Ray agreed, but added. “We’re not there yet.”

Back in March of this year, Ray indicated that part of T-Mobile’s refarming effort would be to allow their customer base a greater selection of devices:

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. As we refarm our 1900 spectrum, we will continue to fully support our customers with 2G devices.

For the most part, this article can take any unlocked device on the 1900 band with HSPA+ support and substitute it for the iPhone. If the iPhone isn’t your cup of tea and the HTC One X is…the same rule of thumb applies, with the refarming effort the device will work on T-Mobile’s 3G/4G network.

All Things D

Tags: , , ,

  • Ryan

    Ok, not that I am being naive or anything… But Apple is very secretive about everything and so was all of their clients. But look at the regional carriers that have the iPhone. They only have the iPhone because they have the same radio as Sprint. I think they struck a deal with Apple to get the next model. To make it easier, they probably used the LTE money to redo the network instead of putting it in Apple’s pocket on just one phone. This looks promising for T-Mobile. I hope I’m right because I continuously see family plans jump ship to get that phone… ETF’s are no deterrent either.

  • Nice hint but i still want it earlier like late summer or something.

    • I want a million dollars.

      • and one day u might get that wish! ;-)

      • Sam

        Hey David does this mean that all ATT phones will work on Tmo 3g in all markets? Or is it going to be one of those “It will hypothetically work but it will not be that good.”?

        • J-Hop2o6

          ANY 3G/HSPA+ 1900 phone will work on Tmo ONCE its lit in that area. If its AT&T branded, you have to SIM-UNLOCK the device first before u can pop in a Tmo sim.

        • In the markets where the refarming rolls out…it means all AT&T phones that have HSPA+ on the 1900 band will work.

      • Steven Hammons

        I want a Planet.

  • Jack77

    And what about LTE? what if the next iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) is a LTE device? can we still use it on T-Mobile’s re-farmed network? Do AT&T LTE radios fall back to 1900Mhz HSPA+?

    • Sure you can. HSPA+ radios will still support PCS HSPA+. AWS LTE and PCS HSPA+ are guaranteed in an LTE iPhone.

      • if I bring a lumia 900 over to t-mobile would I get lte once its riled out on mobile aws?

        • TMOTECH

          No, That phone only works in the 700MHZ band for LTE. But it will work on our HSPA+ network once the 1900 is online

        • Yogi

          TMOTECH, the Lumia 900 supports LTE Band 4 (1700/2100), so it should work fine on T-Mobile LTE once it is rolled out. I posted a previous comment with a link to the specs for the phone on Nokia’s site, but the comment didn’t show up. You’ll have to do a search for them.

        • TMOTECH

          Good to know. I did not realize that. I stand corrected.

        • According to the FCC, the Lumia 900 from AT&T supports WCDMA band 4 as well as LTE band 4.

        • 21stNow

          Make sure that you find out about unlock availability before you get an AT&T version, if that were your plan. We have a long thread on XDA on our difficulties in getting the Lumia 900 unlocked.

    • J-Hop2o6

      If the next iPhone is LTE, it will support Tmo’s HSPA+ (1900 [maybe 1700 also]) and LTE (1700). It will also work on AT&T’s HSPA+ (1900 & 850) and LTE (700 & 1700).

  • davidw

    Sounds good. Maybe I’ll give them a few months before thinking about switching to at&t. EDGE on my HTC Titan is really painfull ….

  • foofighter28

    i really wish some of you can sit in the meetings i’m going through 4-5 days a week to review sites and prepare the sites for modernization. It’s not an easy task when you’re trying to do this to a vast majority of your sites. They want to refarm the 1900Mhz frequency and it makes sense because of devices that are on that band that TMO doesnt have; iPhone included.

    As much as the iphone is desirable it doesnt make fiscal sense to commit to this kind of money into a device that you have subsidize. I for one would rather invest that money into the network vs a singular device. The device will come when the big fruit becomes reasonable to buy into it, look what this deal is doing to Sprint. They’re hurting right now in their bottom line because of this device and dont expect to see positive income on all these customers at a minimum for 12 months. Meanwhile you’re bleeding cash and the big fruit’s coffers continues to grow.

    As much as it’s a great thing for ATT and VZW they hate it they hate doing this deal w/ the devil but they have the subs to spread that cost out so it doesnt hurt them as bad. They would rather you come into the store looking at the fruit and then sell you on an android device because they make more money off it.

    The fruit maybe a great thing but it’s a terrible thing for the carriers…

    • T-Mobile doesn’t have to subsidize this device. They can just start an ad campaign, letting users know that they can bring their own handset (And save tons of money), which will include iPhones and other popular devices.

      • foofighter28

        that’s the plan. They’d rather have ATT spend the millions subsidizing this device and then have the customer churn over to TMO :)

        • illegaloperation

          Well, since the latest iPhones are world phones, T-Mobile can let many iPhone users on Verizon and Sprint keep their phone.

        • 21stNow

          But the VZW and Sprint versions have a lock on US GSM networks. As with anything, I’m sure that there is a workaround. However, I don’t see a lot of people on the web saying that they have used a VZW iPhone on another network, vs I see it all the time with AT&T iPhones.

        • No, they don’t. Apple didn’t allow them to install an MCC lock on the phones. Once you get your iPhone SIM unlocked, the GSM/HSPA+ radios are fully accessible for use with any carrier you wish to use.

      • J-Hop2o6

        How about Tmo have the phone in their stores and online store, but don’t offer a subsidy? Atleast the can finally say they “have” the iPhone.

        • TMOTECH

          Apple wont allow us to sell it without a subsidy. That is the problem. That is why Sprint is losing so much money.

        • T-Mobile needs to stuck it up. They already announce about LTE launch but they still releasing phones on Gingerbread. T-mobile spend 200 million on Carly commercial instead investing into getting LTE phones they could have ready by the time rollout is finished

        • J-Hop2o6

          What a douche company. Bastards. Well atleast they let customers buy unlocked versions.

        • tmo_rep

          That would be a terrible business decision. The only positive in that would be value customers who could use EIP. Yes, we could say that “we carry the iphone” but most customers would bulk at the fact that they would pay retail with us while they could get the device at a fraction of the cost with another carrier. We could then turn around and show them the savings, but MOST customers are not bright, and only think of the “right now cost” instead of the overall savings. Then there are those customers who default on their bill while on EIP, and don’t pay us. Lets not forget about the cost of having these devices shipped to us. The exchange costs for defects etc etc. Let them purchase it elsewhere then signup with us. It would be a nightmare for us to only sell the device at retail value. At this point I believe carrying the iphone would be a great retention tool, not a great method to attract new customers.

        • J-Hop2o6

          It was just an idea, but u make a good point. I guess have a link to a “tmo compatible” unlocked iPhone on their website? I’m not sure about retail stores tho.

    • foofighter28

      I think when the fruit realizes that they’re not the only game in town and people JUST MIGHT be getting tired of having just 2 flavors black or white they may change their tune and offer a lower price to join. RIght now they are in the driver’s seat and command the price that they want…companies like Sprint are so desperate that they will literally bet the farm on this halo phone hoping that it will save the company.

      The next 12 months will be very telling for Sprint as you see how the 3rd largest carrier struggle to keep operating costs down due to turning on more i products

  • This is very important, T-Mobile should definitely target iPhone users and have an ad campaign showing that subsidies are the reason why the iPhone rate plans are so expensive. If people would purchase the device, directly from Apple without a contract, and used it on a prepaid plan (such as T-Mobile’s monthly 4G prepaid) they would save A LOT of money. I am not going to do the math on this because I am kind of sleepy right now, BUT I am certain that people would save large amounts of cash compared to buying the iPhone on another carrier and paying a higher rate plans in addition to being locked down with the carrier via a contract.

    With prepaid people would essentially be free of contract and have a WAY much cheaper rate plan!

    • YouDana

      You are right, and I have done the math many times. People can think of it this way: even on a post paid account if you are saving $30 a month vs. ATT’s plans, in a 2 year contract you will SAVE ($30 x 24months) $720.. you can use that and BUY an unlocked new iphone and STILL have a $100 or so more in your pocket at the end. It’s simple budgeting and easy math. Same applies to any other phone. T-Mo is still the best value :)

    • Problem is Fabio not everyone is willing to spend $700 for the unlocked phone. I think a lot of people would prefer paying the monthly price

      • Yogi

        Yes, but there are a ton of people with older iPhones out of contract that they consider “good enough” that don’t care about getting new phone. Advertise to them that they can get their iPhone unlocked from AT&T and take it to T-Mobile to pay half the price for service.

        • True but then they are people are willing to pay a monthly price for the subside phone old or new

    • Steven Hammons

      I just did this exact thing. SO… I do have the numbers. I was on a hard to leave grandfathered plan costing my only $135 taxes inc. for just two lines 1500 mins unlimited data and text from S. Thats $3616 once I buy a $200 phone for both my wife and I for 2 years. Instead I purchased a $399 Galaxy Nexus, Unlocked Prepaid gives tether BTY & no carrier bullsh!^, I now pay $30 w/ no taxes at all and I just keep $50 in my account for additional per minute minutes, Easy. I only use 87 minutes a month but there are all kinds of Prepaid plans to fit all kinds of callers and data hounds. Total is $1119 x 2 = $2238 saving me $690 per year. Thats $1380! Additionally being the phone whore I am I can sell My phone every year for about 50% of what I paid Effectively subsidizing my own phone for only $8.34 per month!

      Dear America… We have been taking in in the rear for too long. There are Prepaid plans from every carrier that would save you LOTS! of money. Do the math, pick the plan that works for you, Take a vacation!


  • J-Hop2o6

    Hopefully there will be some soft launches of HSPA+ over 1900 before Q4. HSPA+ over AWS is fine in and around Seattle, but having 1900 is even better than AWS.

    • those soft launches can’t come soon enough!!! :-)

  • Faisal Afzal

    This whole upgrade is actually probably costing T-Mo less than it would to convince apple to make the iphone compatible with their network. Apple is really punishing T-Mo here.

    • ogopogo

      I don’t think that it is Apple punishing T-Mobile, but rather T-Mobile punishing Apple. Basically, T-Mobile will be able to support the IPhone without having to shell out big bucks to Apple like Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T.

    • Whylee77

      Not selling to T-Mobile- is like Apple saying they dont want to sell the device in Canada or Australia… It doesnt make sense… TMobile USA still has over 30M subscribers. They still have about 10% of the US Market.

      • YouDan

        I see your point but I think Apple has the leverage. The name recognition and now 3 of the 4 major carriers. They are bullying T-mo into taking a risk that cannot be taken. It doesn’t matter to Apple what may happen to T-mo after that as long as they get their money. Sprint was in a similar boat and are now in a bad position. There is no reason for T-Mo to shoot themselves in the foot and not work with Apple but if they need to cut off an arm and a leg to do so, it’s better to have an injured foot then to be missing limbs altogether. As beloved as Apple is, if you look at the e-book pricing scam, their business ethics become very clear.

  • Bill

    This is just a way for T-Mobile to be cheap. They don’t want to pay Apple like everyone else. So the other three carriers are going to have the latest iPhone complete with LTE, and T-Mobile will have some lame ad campaign to encourage people to bring over their 2 year old, out of contract iPhones.

    That does nothing to stop the customers who want the LATEST iPhone from jumping ship. People don’t want to pay $700 for an unlocked iPhone. They want it for $199 on contract.

    • k-mack

      i have no idea who you are talking about but it ain’t iPhone owners!… they want a great phone on a great network at the best price so I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see customers switching to T-Mobile when their devices are supported… at that point, the latest iPhone will work out of the box.

      • What great besides GS 2 or HTC ONE S what other great phones? Bill is right when iphone 5 is release people are going to want to want to get it

    • YouDan

      This is the problem. People think T-mo is being cheap but it’s not that simple, it’s about survival. Apple practically wants t-mo to buy more than half it’s customers base worth of iphones up front and sink all that money into the iphone. Which means there will be NO money left to work on the network, and of course, to make the money back, iphones will need to be the primary push. This can also be seen as an attempt to squash andorid. If T-mo took that risk, it’s an “all in” bet an if lost, the carrier can FAIL FAST! So T-mo is being smart. It may take the punishment from people like you but it’s making the best decision in this situation for every one… the consumers and the company.

      • Noel

        The 1900 band refarming effort is not only for the iPhone….the are plenty good devices that operate on the 1900MHz band. Many ppl coming from abroad with their 1900 MHz band devices will find a home on Tmo for a cheaper monthly bill. It is a smart way to spend the limited cash Tmo has than to shell billions just to get one phone…sprint spent all those billions and it hasn’t payed off. I say making the Network playing nice with the 1900MHz band is the most prudent and cheapest move Tmo could have made considering the expensive alternative.

    • Get_at_Me

      yeah and carriers take a beating selling u that phone at $200. We’ll see how sprint does over the next year or so….They sunk alot of $$$ into the iphone and they’re sinking alot into their LTE buildout…Something has to give for them….They spend money as if its an infinite resource….Sprint is a Value carriers= much like TMO. How can they survive by offering low rates to customers while spending like there’s no tomorrow????

      • Sprint been more advertising then T-mobile. Sprint went out won the rights for NBA. They are also advertising for The Voice

  • As a customer and an employee I think I’m more excited about the refarm of the 1900MHz spectrum than I am about LTE for the simple fact that it opens the doors for so many more devices… and I’m all for more choices when it comes to handsets.

    • Get_at_Me

      same here

      • me too, i can go to newegg and buy the galaxy note for $540, that would be awesome.

        • Nikolai T

          $40 less on Expansys. It’s where I plan on buying mine. Unfortunately, only the black version is cheaper.

    • Makoute

      Especially if the lumia 900 works.

  • Which way is Up?

    My international One X and I are patiently waiting.

  • Get_at_Me

    This spectrum refarm does so many things for TMO. It aligns the network with the rest of the GSM world & it takes away “excuses” from Apple as to why T-Mobile doesn’t have the iphone while the other major US carriers do. Now, Apple can say T-Mobile doesn’t have the iphone b/c their data network is unique. “We would have to develop a special iphone for them…which wouldn’t be cost effective”….Not anymore. You have to admire TMO. They didn’t bend to Apple’s will lie the other carriers did. What if all carriers stood up to Apple like T-Mobile did? Apple needs carriers to be successful (regarding the iphone). Sure Apple could sell the iphone direct to consumers unlocked, but how many ppl would be willing to pay $500+ for a new phone. This isn’t 2007. The iphone isn’t the only game in town anymore. Carriers should really take a look at their bottomline and put the screws to Apple…Carriers dont need the iphone to get subscribers. Verizon did quite well without it……If i were Apple, i’d work out a good deal with TMO. Afterall, as a company, you want to sell your products to as many ppl as possible right? I would rather work out a less profitable deal (for Apple) vs no deal at all. I think a deal where TMO would agree to purchase 2-3million iphones over a 2-3 year period would be fair. Sprint got screwed on their deal. They wont sell all the iphones they committed to.

    • They may not have to since they are refarming their network

      • Get_at_Me

        if u have an unlocked iphone or one that is eligible to be unlocked for free, its a no-brainer, but what about the non-TMO customer that wants a new iphone and is shopping around for new service? Most wont go out and buy a new unlocked iphone just to get lower cost service w/ TMO. The mass majority of consumers are brainwashed by the new phone subsidy. I think TMO can pick up a substantial number of subscribers by inviting them to use their used/unlocked device, but they’d be in better position if they sold it subsidized or full cost on a value/m4g plan. I could see TMO requiring customers to sign up on a value plan if the iphone does come. $200 down/$20 per month for 20 months.

    • Rclubine

      This frequency is used worldwide on GSM networks. T-Mobile in Europe sells or offers the iPhone & iPad.

  • BahamasGeek242

    T-mobile does not need to offer the I-phone at all on contract. AT&T better watch out because when this network is up and running at %100 I feel they will have no choice but to lower the price of the cell phone plans they offer.

    • 21stNow

      LOL. I think that it is far more likely that T-Mobile would raise their prices rather than AT&T lower theirs.

    • Get_at_Me

      TMO needs to market the unlocked iphone angle heavily the second half of the year!!! Word of mouth and blogs aren’t enough.

      • BahamasGeek242

        Your probably right but I do think that AT&T will loose some customers who want a cheaper bill

        • Get_at_Me

          i dont think customers are saavy enough to realize what they can do with their devices regarding unlocking….Its TMOs duty to educate the general public…Much in the way Neo, Morpheus and company freed ppl from the Matrix…lol.

  • zeth006

    Dude, screw this. I don’t want iPhone users sharing my network with me. I love my 6-8 mbps speeds here in SF! Damn!

    • J-Hop2o6

      The 1700/AWS band won’t be affected by iPhone users, so your 6-8mbps speeds in SF will be fine.

      • zeth006

        Ok, I’m not up to speed on the bands. Which bands will iPhone owners share with the rest of us Android and WP7 owners? At what speeds? (e.g. 42mbps? Maybe 84mbps later on?)

        • J-Hop2o6

          iPhone = HSPA+ 1900 = Tmo (soon) & AT&T
          Tmo = HSPA+ 1700 (and HSPA+ 1900 soon)

          iPhone doesn’t support HSPA+ 1700 (which all Tmo phones are using now). Once Tmo launches HSPA+ 1900, *some* Tmo phones (currently) will use it (or HSPA+ 1700 depending on signal/coverage). Most Tmo phones will still be on HSPA+ 1700 since not all Tmo branded HSPA+ phones support HSPA+ 1900. So like I said, iPhone on Tmo’s network won’t slow your area down since Tmo will have two bands for HSPA+.

          Tmo stopped at 42mpbs HSPA+, but LTE will go past that once Tmo launches it early 2013.

          Makes sense now?

  • Would the 1900MHz HSPA work on the iPhone 3G?

    • J-Hop2o6

      Yes. Hopefully it launches in your city.

      • I hope Sacramento,CA is early on the list to get refarmed!

  • matt

    This refarm of the 1900 band wont effect current tmobile phones will it? As i understand it, T mobile’s HSPA is currently on 1700 and 2100. So they are going to add 1900, and use 1700 and 2100 for LTE??? So what about phones like the G2 that use 1700/2100 for up and down on for HSPA? Or will the 1700 and 2100 bands have HSPA and LTE on them???

    • Ariel Garcia

      The 1900 they have now is used for 2G but they’re switching it over to HSPA+ while still keeping 2G phones working

  • Winski

    I sure hope the Germans blow these clowns up when they liquidate T-Mumble…

  • The underdogs are coming up! Tmobile has been kind of the laughing stalk of the 4 big carriers but I think they can make a comeback very soon! This is a brilliant business plan. Unlike Sprint, Verizon, and ATT, investing large sums of $$$ for Apple to add the iPhone to their inventory, Tmobile is playing Apple at their own game, building their own promising network that will be compatible not only with the iPhone but other unlocked 3g devices complete with affordable plans which would attract millions of users from all carriers. I love it! Now all Tmobile needs to do is promote and advertise unlocked iPhone plans, get their network running, and add more quality phones to their stock to offer customers a more broad diverse range of phones to choose from, I believe Tmobile will be back on their way to the top. 

  • Woogie

    I’m not sure why all the 1900 MHz announcements focus on the iPhone. There are plenty of other smartphones that use the 1900 MHz band and do not have 1700 MHz.

  • sitting here (not so patiently) waiting for this to have any impact… I really want to move from my (pretty old) T-Mo G2 to the Lumia 800 I’ve been using in Europe and Asia but the lack of transparency from T-Mo as to what they’re doing and when is killing me. Would it hurt for them to put a date on when I can expect it in WA? I don’t really understand why it all takes so long anyway.

    sadly the more they drag their heels the closer we get to contract renewal for not only me but the rest of the family and if T-Mo are still not rolled out then we’re going Virgin or Ting or one of the other options