I had a few minutes this evening between Colbie Cailat songs at T-Mobile’s CES 2012 party to talk to CTO Neville Ray on what the future holds for T-Mobile since the AT&T merger is off. T-Mobile walked away with not only $3 billion but also some AWS spectrum from AT&T.
First, Ray is excited. He talked like someone who has been imprisoned by the merger over the past year, unable to make any long term moves. T-Mobile is still evaluating its long-term options (like LTE) but there is a buzz in the air now. While the parent company Deutsch Telekom gets the $3 billion payoff from AT&T, it seems that there will be big investment over the next few years in the T-Mobile USA subsidy.
On Dec. 19, T-Mobile’s official AT&T breakup release stated what —besides the $3 billion— T-Mobile would get:
As part of the break-up fee, T-Mobile USA will receive a large package of AWS mobile spectrum in 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), including 12 of the top 20 markets (Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle).
The UMTS roaming agreement for the U.S. in T-Mobile USA’s favor has a term of over seven years and will allow the company to improve its footprint significantly among the U.S. population and offer its customers better broadband coverage for mobile communications services in the future. Population coverage will increase from 230 million potential customers at present to 280 million. As a result of the agreement with AT&T, coverage will be extended to many regions of the U.S. in which T-Mobile USA previously had neither its own high-speed mobile communications network nor the associated roaming agreements.
That spectrum will allow T-Mobile to light up HSPA+ radio frequency used by the iPhone’s 3G.
Nevada, parts of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest are also seeing some pockets of 1900MHz spectrum refarming for HSPA+. There are other parts of the country T-Mobile can refarm the 1900MHz spectrum but, the focus is on the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, Utah and California for right now from what we’re told. We should emphasize and emphasize greatly that this post does not mean that all of the aforementioned areas are seeing this refarmed spectrum, just pockets inside those areas.
Ray said those networks were not officially lit up (perhaps some tower testing or AT&T roaming confusion happened).
Nevertheless, there is good news for those who want to use an iPhone on T-Mobile’s 3G network…
For some in a short list of cities in the Eastern United States, T-Mobile is lighting up some 1900 MHz HSPA+ spectrum. Long-term plans have not been solidified. However, combined with the new AT&T roaming bandwidth mentioned above, T-Mobile will offer a network that current iPhone users will be able to utilize.
While Ray would not comment too much on the opportunity to carry the iPhone, T-Mobile users will be able to use 14.4MHz speeds off their iPhones when in those areas.
That is an interesting proposition because —for people in lit up 3G cities— T-Mobile offers inexpensive 3G plans to those who can bring their own device.
Expect to hear more soon, including a list of cities that will be lit up in the first round.