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T-Mobile to launch 4G LTE in U.S. next year

The carrier will use money and spectrum space obtained from the failed AT&T deal to forge ahead with LTE in the U.S. in 2013 as its current sales and customer numbers continue to sink.

T-Mobile will launch its own LTE network in the U.S. in 2013 in an effort to stem the tide of lower sales and fleeing customers.

The company announced yesterday that it plans to spend $4 billion toward its upcoming 4G network by installing new hardware at 37,000 cellular sites. It's also aiming to use the wireless spectrum band promised by AT&T as a result of the breakup agreement, assuming the FCC approves the transfer.

Further, T-Mobile will kick in $1.4 billion of its own money and expand its HSPA+ network to "refarmed frequencies" to drive total LTE deployment.

The carrier said it expects the move to LTE to "significantly enhance coverage and performance for customers."

T-Mobile can definitely use that advantage in light of its dour fourth-quarter earnings that were released in conjunction with the 4G announcement.

The company lost a total of 802,000 customers in the final quarter of 2011, a huge shift from the 251,000 who jumped ship in the prior year's quarter.

T-Mobile blamed the surge in contract de-activations on its inability to offer the iPhone. With Sprint jumping on the iPhone bandwagon last year, T-Mobile is the only one of the four major U.S. carriers without Apple's smartphone.

The customer losses took down revenue for the quarter, which fell to $5.2 billion from $5.4 billion a year ago. Total sales for the year dropped by 3.3 percent to $20.6 billion.

Parent Deutsche Telekom tried to highlight one of the few bright spots but clearly wasn't pleased with the results.

"Though we are not satisfied with the contract customer losses and the decreased total revenues, the quarterly margin improvement year-on-year was impressive," Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann said in a statement. "The spectrum gained through the break-up fee empowers T-Mobile USA to start LTE-based services in key U.S. markets and strengthens its competitiveness."

T-Mobile faces a long road ahead in deploying LTE compared with its rivals. Verizon currently leads the pack with the greatest 4G coverage in the nation. AT&T has slowly been forging ahead with its own LTE network. And Sprint plans to kick off its initial LTE rollout this summer, hitting 10 major markets by the first half of the year.