T-Mobile boosts 4G coverage in attempt to lure iPhone users

Adding Baltimore, Houston, and Washington, D.C. to its 4G (HSPA) 1900 network, the carrier says unlocked iPhones in these cities will run 70 percent faster on its network than on AT&T's.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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T-Mobile boosts its network speed in new cities in an attempt to lure more iPhone customers. Image composite by Joe Aimonetti

T-Mobile today added Baltimore, Houston, and Washington, D.C. to the list of U.S. cities served by 4G (HSPA+) on its faster 1900 network.

"As a part of our $4 billion plan to transform our network, T-Mobile continues to strengthen an already fast and competitive 4G experience in major metro areas across the country by installing new equipment and retuning our 4G airwaves to work with more devices," T-Mobile USA Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said in a statement today.

One of the devices that the carrier specifically highlighted to get the faster 4G coverage is the unlocked iPhone. According to T-Mobile, customers with iPhones in these cities get a faster and cheaper service than they would on AT&T.

"Our internal tests of unlocked iPhone 4S devices running over 4G (HSPA+) on our 1900 network recorded on average 70 percent faster download speeds than iPhone 4S devices on AT&T's network," Ray said.

Unlike AT&T, which is an official iPhone carrier, T-Mobile doesn't sell the device. Instead, it encourages customers to use its service with unlocked iPhones. Apparently, more than a million iPhones currently run on T-Mobile's network.

T-Mobile is picking on AT&T because these two carriers are lagging behind other mobile providers in offering 4G LTE. Instead, they tend to offer 4G (HSPA+), which they say is fast enough to be called 4G.

While T-Mobile has said it will develop a 4G LTE network, it doesn't plan to start until next year. By comparison, AT&T has 76 4G LTE markets covered, Sprint Nextel is in 32 cities, and Verizon has covered 417 U.S. markets.

T-Mobile's HSPA+ network covers more than 220 million people in more than 200 markets, allowing T-Mobile to boast the largest 4G network in the country. But so far, it only has five cities -- Baltimore, Houston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and Las Vegas -- that get 4G (HSPA+) on the 1900 network.

The carrier said it is currently working on adding Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York metro area, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle to the 4G (HSPA+) 1900 network.