T-Mobile launches 4G LTE network

T-Mobile joins the other nationwide wireless carriers in kicking off its new 4G LTE wireless network, which will bring even speedier service to its customers.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read
T-Mobile wows with fresh, fast 4G LTE phones
Watch this: T-Mobile wows with fresh, fast 4G LTE phones

T-Mobile is joining the 4G LTE party with the official launch of its own service.

The new network is live in seven cities, the company announced at its "Uncarrier" event in New York City today. The initial cities include: Baltimore; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. T-Mobile said its 4G LTE network will reach 100 million Americans by the middle of 2013 and 200 million by the end of 2013.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at the event that New York City will be live sometime this summer. But he said that reporters and others with T-Mobile LTE devices will be able to test out the LTE network in New York today.

The company also announced several LTE smartphones that will be available for its network, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, BlackBerry Z10, HTC One, T-Mobile Sonic 2.0 Mobile HotSpot LTE, and Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Early testing indicates the new network is providing top speeds around 25Mbps.

T-Mobile is the last of the four major carriers to launch its 4G LTE network. Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless company in the U.S., also has the largest LTE network. Verizon, which was the pioneer in LTE deployment, has about 400 markets covered with LTE. AT&T is in more than 50 markets. And Sprint Nextel said it will turn on 19 markets by Labor Day.

To date, the carrier has largely relied on its HSPA+ network, which for marketing purposes it also calls 4G. T-Mobile's prior focus on HSPA+ was out of necessity. Unlike the other major carriers, T-Mobile has been severely spectrum-constrained. And it simply had no other spectrum to "grow into" for its LTE service.

But much has changed in the last year to improve T-Mobile's spectrum position. After regulators put the kibosh on its massive $39 billion merger with AT&T, T-Mobile got a break-up fee that included spectrum and a roaming agreement worth $1 billion. As a result, parent company Deutsche Telekom recommitted resources to the unit, and last year announced plans to acquire prepaid provider MetroPCS.

Even though MetroPCS uses a different network technology for its basic service, the company had forged an aggressive network strategy toward LTE. And the spectrum it owned is compatible with the spectrum T-Mobile is using to build its LTE network. The marriage between these two carriers will almost double spectrum capacity in many key markets, which will allow for higher speeds and more capacity for network traffic.

Last summer, T-Mobile also struck another deal with Verizon Wireless to swap spectrum. Verizon was looking to acquire spectrum for several major cable operators. And in an effort to appease regulators it worked with T-Mobile to forge a deal, that offered spectrum to the smaller carrier in markets where it most needed it.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile has been busy "refarming" or reusing the spectrum it already owned to build its new LTE service. This not only frees up additional spectrum for the LTE network, but it also helps align T-Mobile's spectrum frequencies more with competitors, such as AT&T. That is good because it means devices designed for AT&T will be able to be used on T-Mobile's network without degradation to the service.

To follow all the news at T-Mobile's "Uncarrier" event check out CNET's live blog.