T-Mobile has acknowledged internally that Apple’s iPhone offers a “poor customer experience” on its network, but the nation’s No.4 carrier is working as quickly as it can to change that. The company announced this past February that it will be performing upgrades to its network that bring faster data speeds to users who purchase an iPhone on their own and unlock it for use on T-Mobile, and on Tuesday the carrier said the work will be performed ahead of schedule.
Apple has tested an iPhone compatible with T-Mobile’s network, as BGR exclusively revealed more than a year ago, but such a device has yet to launch for reasons unknown. T-Mobile executives have stated publicly on a number of occasions that not carrying the iPhone is having a huge negative impact on the carrier’s performance. But Apple is preparing to launch its sixth iPhone handset later this year, and there are still no signs that the phone is set to be released by T-Mobile.
Because the carrier has not managed to work out a deal with Apple, it is making moves on its own to accommodate iPhone fans. By the end of 2012, T-Mobile will have launched HSPA+ “4G” service on the 1900MHz band in “a large number of markets.” By no coincidence, Apple’s iPhone is compatible with HSPA+ on the 1900MHz band.
“As part of the company’s network modernization effort, T-Mobile also plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in a large number of markets by the end of the year,” T-Mobile stated in a press release on Tuesday. “Network modernization trials have shown up to a 33 percent increase in HSPA+ data speeds as well as improved in-building coverage. Rolling out 4G HSPA+ services in the 1900 MHz band will also provide customers with the ability to use a broader range of devices, including the iPhone, on T-Mobile’s 4G network.”
T-Mobile will not be able to compete with AT&T, Verizon Wireless or Sprint on price, of course. Because the company has not managed to secure a deal with Apple, it will not sell subsidized iPhone handsets directly to its customers. Instead, they will have to purchase used or factory unlocked handsets for use on T-Mobile’s network, or close their accounts with other carriers, unlock their iPhones and open a new account with T-Mobile. While this is less than ideal and a number of subscribers will be put off by the hassel and expense, it won’t stop everyone — T-Mobile noted last summer that its network was home to more than 1 million iPhones at that time.
Apple’s next iPhone is expected to be a complete redesign that will launch this coming fall, and it is also expected to be compatible with 4G LTE networks in the United States. Even if T-Mobile can’t secure a contract with Apple to offer the iPhone directly, its HSPA+ network enhancements this year and LTE roll-out next year will make using the new iPhone on its network as good an experience as possible for millions of its subscribers.