T-Mobile announced a slew of changes headed to its network in the coming months, including LTE 4G, HD Voice and yes, the iPhone.
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T-Mobile is nearly ready to step into the LTE 4G fight with AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. The company made several announcements at CES this week, all of which bank on its next-generation network.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray provided an update on the progress T-Mobile has made with its LTE build-out. Las Vegas will be the company's first LTE market, which will launch later this month. Some of T-Mobile's existing handsets, including the Galaxy Note II, will be able to use its LTE network after being updated with an over-the-air software patch.
T-Mobile's LTE coverage will grow quickly. By the middle of the year, T-Mobile says it will cover 100 million Americans with LTE 4G. That will expand to 200 million by the end of 2013. The company has enough spectrum to match AT&T and Verizon's LTE network coverage, and it will even surpass Sprint's LTE coverage by a factor of two.
T-Mobile is accomplishing this by re-farming its spectrum, a project it has been working on since early 2012. The company has historically operated GSM/EDGE service in the 1900MHz band. It offers HSPA+ in the 1700MHz AWS band. T-Mobile has been systematically replacing the GSM/EDGE service with GSM/HSPA+ in the 1900MHz band, which makes room in its 1700MHz spectrum for LTE. It has been moving its HSPA+ service to the 1900MHz band all year and already has several dozen markets ready for LTE.
T-Mobile's move to LTE is vital, as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have all deployed LTE already.
T-Mobile also announced that its HD Voice service is now available across its entire network. T-Mobile is the first U.S. carrier to offer HD Voice to such a large number of customers. HD Voice is a next-generation telephony technology that makes dramatic improvements to the quality of phone calls made over T-Mobile's cellular network.
There are some limitations, though. HD Voice requires that each participant in the conversation have an HD Voice-compatible handset. Currently it sells only three such phones: the HTC One S, the Samsung Galaxy S III, and the Nokia Astound. Sprint is the only other carrier that offers HD Voice, but its availability is extremely limited.
Making good on announcements made late last year, T-Mobile said that beginning today it is offering a new service plan that provides unlimited 4G service with no annual contract. The plan costs $70 per month and includes unlimited voice, data, and messaging.
Last, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that the company will end device subsidies in three or four months, which is about the same timeframe T-Mobile expects to offer the Apple iPhone. Subsidies are the device price discounts that carriers provide to customers who sign two-year contracts.
Together, all these updates will make T-Mobile a much more attractive competitor to AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Though the nation's two largest carriers are far ahead in their LTE deployments, T-Mobile is responding swiftly to get back in the game.
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