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CES 2013: T-Mobile Places All Its Chips On LTE

T-Mobile announced a slew of changes headed to its network in the coming months, including LTE 4G, HD Voice and yes, the iPhone.
CES 2013: 7 Standout Technologies
CES 2013: 7 Standout Technologies
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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.

[ For more smartphone news from CES, see CES 2013: New Smartphones On Deck. ]

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.

Tech spending is looking up, but IT must focus more on customers and less on internal systems. Also in the all-digital Outlook 2013 issue of InformationWeek: Five painless rules for encryption. (Free registration required.)