Friday, February 24, 2012

T-Mobile USA says LTE coming in 2013; last of the Big Four to confirm LTE plans

Until now, T-Mobile USA has been mum on 4G LTE, saying, more or less, that its HSPA+ service was fast enough. In addition, parent company Deutsche Telekom has previously said it wasn't interested in spending more money in the U.S. wireless market. But with the AT&T deal dead, DT has said that T-Mobile USA will embrace LTE, starting in 2013.

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DT is practically being forced into making the move to LTE, as everyone, even Sprint which was first with 4G with WiMax is moving to LTE. Verizon had the earlier LTE rollout in the U.S., but it's also had three outages in the past few months. AT&T started its rollout last year, but still trails badly, and Sprint hasn't even begun its public rollout, but will by Q2.

The company is the last of the Big Four U.S. carrier to announce plans around LTE, and while it has been questioned before whether or not T-Mobile USA would be able to amass enough spectrum to offer the service, the spectrum acquired from AT&T after the failed acquisition is in play here. The company said it will use a combination of that former AT&T spectrum, an addition $1.4 billion in additional infrastructure investments, and "refarmed frequencies" for its LTE service.

Still, the company is the only of the Big Four carries sans an iPhone, and that is hurting its sales. In Q4 2011 alone, T-Mobile USA lost 802,000 contract customers, and saw revenue drop 3.3 percent, to $20.6 billion.

T-Mobile USA said, “For T-Mobile USA, the past year was characterized by significant challenges, particularly in the fourth quarter, following the market launch of the new Apple iPhone model by the three major national competitors in October."

The lost deal meant that DT received a $3 billion payout from AT&T, the aforementioned spectrum, and roaming agreement. Still, as T-Mobile continues to hemorrhage, not just bleed, subscribers, its survival remains in question.

One definite key to recovery: get the iPhone. Even a small regional carrier named C-Spire has managed to land the most popular single smartphone in the world, and that has to grate on T-Mobile USA's nerves.

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