T-Mobile's Prospects Soar as It Fires Up LTE Network, iPhone Sales

NEWS ANALYSIS: Things are looking up for T-Mobile now that Apple will start selling T-Mobile-friendly iPhones and the mobile service provider’s LTE network is functioning just fine in several cities.

I was having lunch with a Verizon Wireless executive in the Washington, D.C., suburbs in early April, when I took out the BlackBerry Z10 I’d used for my eWEEK review and noticed that T-Mobile’s LTE had arrived in the area.

“That’s not really LTE,” my lunch companion said. But indeed it was, and a few minutes later I swapped out SIM cards and brought the phone up using AT&T’s network. LTE was there, too.

The BlackBerry Z10 was delivering a level of access that’s now going to be available to iPhone 5 owners. T-Mobile has just announced that Apple is issuing an update to iOS that will let owners of unlocked iPhones use T-Mobile’s 4G and LTE network.

Of course that means you have to have an iPhone 5 to use LTE, and an iPhone 4S or later to use T-Mobile’s high-speed HSPA+. Apple will start selling iPhones with these same capabilities as the standard GSM version of the iPhone in the United States. AT&T iPhones will have the same software tweaks. Furthermore, according to TmoNews, the unofficial T-Mobile blog, the new iPhone update will allow Sprint and Verizon Wireless phones to work on T-Mobile’s 3G network.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile also announced that the company was now taking orders for its own version of the iPhone. The T-Mobile version of the iPhone will sell for $99 plus 24 monthly payments of $20 per month. The T-Mobile version will be unlocked. If you don’t want to do the math yourself, the bottom line is that T-Mobile is selling the unlocked iPhone at a discount, but without a contract. Deliveries will start April 12.

If that’s not enough, T-Mobile also announced a deal in which Audi would equip some of its cars with built-in T-Mobile WiFi hotspots. This means, among other things, that T-Mobile now has the coolest fashion accessory of any mobile carrier. If we’re lucky, they’ll also sign a deal with BMW, kind of like the T-Mobile-equipped BMW I saw at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany, in March.

And while all of this was going on, T-Mobile released preliminary first quarter results, announcing among other items that the company had added 579,000 new customers. Meanwhile, churn was down significantly and the sales increases were in both prepaid and postpaid accounts, which is important for long-term financial health.

In other words, the first week of April was a very good week for T-Mobile. The “un-carrier” is going gangbusters in pretty much every metric that’s out there to measure.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...