T-Mobile representatives have confirmed to FierceWireless that the carrier will roll out HSPA+ access on its 1900MHz band currently used for GSM/EDGE access later this year after months of speculation on what looked to be phantom support discovered last year in the West Coast markets and following mere days after AT&T began unlocking off-contract iPhone models.
T-Mobile is currently the only carrier in the US besides MetroPCS to not offer any variant of the hugely popular smartphone due to the incompatible radio frequencies it currently uses for its own current 3G HSPA+ network and it has confirmed that the compatibility will be provided thanks to the additional spectrum provided to it thanks to AT&T’s “breakup fee” given to T-Mobile as a condition of the merger agreement since the purchase was blocked by federal regulators late last year. The FCC has yet to approve the transfer of spectrum.
The network management plan that T-Mobile will employ from now on as a result of the AT&T iPhone unlocking will differ from its original strategy announced earlier this year and will split spectrum down the middle, with GSM/EDGE and HSPA+ being served on both sides of the 1900MHz band through rebanding on each frequency, with the same being done for LTE and and HSPA+ on its AWS 3G band in order to provide support for all major services going forward with minimal issues.
The goal now is to continue to offer both GSM/EDGE and HSPA+ service on 1900MHz for iPhone support while adding LTE support to its AWS band and maintaining HSPA+ service at the same time on the AWS band to not alienate those customers without iPhones, as the majority of T-Mobile ‘s branded hardware does not support 850MHz/1900MHz 3G without baseband hacking or the purchase of specific phones with included hardware support developed in the wake of the now failed AT&T purchase. The original plan called for the complete discontinuation of GSM/EDGE service on 1900MHz and to completely reband the leftover spectrum for HSPA+ service, with the AWS 3G band being completely reserved for LTE service.
The above strategy is a major shift from its previous plans to discontinue GSM/EDGE service for HSPA+/LTE service in favor of a new split data network management strategy now based around the iPhone, as the carrier is currently offering limited support for the device with microSIM cards and counts 1 million iPhone users already on its network.
With the revised strategy now in place, the carrier is looking to court those former AT&T customers with off contract iPhones to its network and the hope that it may finally be able to attract its own version of the device after years of being ignored due to its incompatible network frequencies. In effect, Apple has forced T-Mobile USA to completely rearrange its network in order to remain competitive and have the possibility of carrying the iPhone in the future.
T-Mobile declined to comment on when the rebanding or the revised rollout would occur, only stating that more details would be provided as the service nears launch while FCC filings have confirmed that the carrier plans to have the reband complete by the middle of 2013, pending the previously mentioned approval of the transfer of additional spectrum promised to T-Mobile by AT&T.