T-Mobile Works iPhone 5 Angles

T-Mobile is preparing its retail staff for the iPhone 5's arrival--even though it won't be selling the device. For example, it can woo unlocked iPhone owners.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

August 28, 2012

3 Min Read

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

T-Mobile, the nation's fourth-largest wireless network provider, doesn't sell the iPhone 4S, nor has it ever offered Apple's smartphone. Even though T-Mobile hasn't come to an agreement with Apple to sell the iconic smartphone, it has a strategy for the iPhone 5 just the same.

Leaked internal memos show that T-Mobile is preparing its retail staff for the next-generation iPhone 5's debut. What is the company planning to do?

First, T-Mobile is prepared to sell SIM card kits. The iPhone 4/4S use a micro SIM card developed by Apple. T-Mobile already sells micro SIM cards that can be used with the iPhone 4/4S, and it looks like T-Mobile is prepared to step up its campaign for snagging iPhone customers.

[ Will the iPhone 5 offer near-field communications? Read iPhone 5's 'One More Thing': NFC?. ]

TmoNews, which published the leaked memos, surmises that this detail points to impending news about T-Mobile's network upgrades. T-Mobile is working to refarm--or repurpose--some of its existing spectrum. T-Mobile's 3G network operates in the 1700MHz spectrum block. This is the main reason it doesn't offer the iPhone: Apple won't build a model that supports this spectrum.

In order to get around this issue, T-Mobile is going to move its 3G network from the 1700MHz spectrum to its 1900MHz spectrum holdings. This is the same spectrum that AT&T uses for its 3G network, and the same spectrum on which the iPhone has operated since Day 1. In short, T-Mobile's 3G network will, eventually, be compatible with older 3G iPhones. T-Mobile will then offer LTE 4G on its 1700MHz spectrum holdings, as well as some 700MHz spectrum that it will acquire from Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile expects to get its first LTE markets on the air in 2013.

In the meantime, it will have some ammunition to give its retail folks once the iPhone 5 launches. T-Mobile will be able to advertise SIM cards and speedy 3G service for the iPhone 4/4S. T-Mobile can also pitch the benefits of using an unlocked device on its network, which generally allows users to access service without lengthy contracts. (T-Mobile's network is already home to more than 1 million unlocked iPhones.) T-Mobile won't be able to offer a 4G LTE iPhone, though.

Why not pull the same SIM card trick with the iPhone 5? The iPhone 5 is expected to change to an even newer and smaller nano SIM card, which was recently approved by the European Telecommunications Union. iPhone owners won't be able to use a nano SIM in a device with a micro SIM tray, and vice versa. T-Mobile hasn't indicated if it will offer nano SIMs, too, for the iPhone 5.

Apple hasn't announced the iPhone 5, but it is expected to do so on September 12. The new phone may reach retail stores as early as September 21.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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