While T-Mobile got the better end of their blocked aquisition by AT&T, they’re still far, far behind them and Verizon as far as customers and coverage goes. It didn’t help that they were the only major US carrier left without an LTE strategy; it would seems that they were leaning heavily on the AT&T deal to make their expansion problems go away. Now T-Mobile’s doing it for themselves. While specifics were hard to come by, CEO Philipp Humm announced the early parts of their LTE rollout plan with a launch expected in 2013.
They’ll make this happen with a $4 billion investement and some brand new spectrum, all of which is fallout and concessions from the AT&T deal. 37,000 towers in the United States will be upgraded, with LTE service heading to the “vast majority” of top 50 markets. That means that if you live in a major city and you’re still rocking magenta, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting long term evolution speeds within a year to eighteen months. At a later press conference, the company said that it plans to offer 10 LTE devices in 2013, though the breakdown of smartphone, tablet, hotspot or other gear wasn’t elaborated. A high-end Android smartphone will certainly be in the number.
The news is both promising and a little lukewarm. On the one hand, the US Justice Department’s flat-out denial of a merger between two of the four big carriers puts an end to the thinning of competition in the mobile space over the last decade. With the new “Challenger” strategy, T-Mobile is saying that it will not go quietly into the good night that was expected. On the other hand, they’re already far behind AT&T and Verizon – even AT&T’s relatively tiny LTE footprint will dwarf T-Mobile when it launches in a year or more. T-Mobile’s best bet is to continue doing what it does best, and offer comparable service at a lower price. Oh, and T-Mo? Give us truly unlimited data again, and you’ll attract Android customers in droves.