T-Mobile Wants Unlocked iPhones And Offers Big Savings, But Is Its Network Ready?

T-Mobile Wants Unlocked iPhones And Offers Big Savings, But Is Its Network Ready?

T-Mobile currently has over 1 million unlocked iPhones running on its network, the majority of which use 2G data speeds.

For a company that’s wanting to “sell against the iPhone,” T-Mobile still wants whatever business it can get from unlocked iPhone owners. Earlier today we told you about T-Mobile’s new microSIM kits that will easily unlock an iPhone 4/4S to run on its GSM network.

It appears that T-Mobile is also readying flyers that say “Bring Your iPhone to T-Mobile for BIG SAVINGS!” But can T-Mobile’s network really support iPhone users on 3G and eventually 4G speeds?

According to TmoNews, T-Mobile has been testing a campaign in its stores that tout the financial value of switching an unlocked iPhone from AT&T over to T-Mobile. Because of T-Mobile’s unlimited everything plan for $75 per month, the carrier promises that unlockers will save over $1,500 over the life of a two-year contract.

For those of you who don’t think the iPhone on T-Mobile’s network is a boost or will draw customers, a four-store pilot (which is where the flyers originate from) in an east-coast area tells us that’s in fact, not the case. A trial-run undertaken during the course of July in four retail locations showed that gross adds increased 56% over the regular store baseline when a live iPhone running on T-Mobile’s 3G network was demonstrated.

While the size of this trial run hardly amounts to a large sample size, it’s certainly indicative that T-Mobile’s move to refarm their network with a focus on bringing unlocked phones, including iPhones will might just pay some dividends.

While the savings for customers are hard to argue with, it’s worth noting that unlocked iPhones on T-Mobile will see poorer data speeds across the board. This is due to the fact that T-Mobile’s main 1700 MHz AWS band does not support 3G speeds on the iPhone’s current chipset.

T-Mobile has started building up its iPhone-friendly 1900 MHz band, but saturation isn’t where it should be yet. While it’s been reported that a few iPhone owners on T-Mobile have seen 3G data speeds in certain parts of the country, T-Mobile’s network is by no means up to snuff with AT&T’s and Verizon’s.

And what about LTE? The next iPhone will likely feature 4G LTE networking, and T-Mobile’s LTE footprint is practically nonexistent. LTE deployment won’t be happening on T-Mobile until at least 2013, and until then, T-Mobile will offer the faster-than-3G-but-still-not-LTE-fast-HSPA+.

Assuming the next iPhone’s chipset places nice with T-Mobile’s network, more unlockers could make their way to the smaller network as its coverage improves. Hopefully T-Mobile’s network will be able to scale in time. It may already be too late for Apple to partner and officially offer the iPhone.

  • Glenn Gore

    T-Mobile only covers 3 counties in my midwestern state with anything other than GPRS or EDGE, so no, their network is not ready for the iPhone

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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