T-Mobile to give unlocked iPhones HSPA+ speeds this year

T-Mobile USA welcomed the news that AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has started unlocking the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones of its non-contract customers, and said later this year it will begin offering HSPA+ support for the devices on its network.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, T-Mobile said that it currently has more than one million unlocked iPhones on its network and that it will continue to add value for them as it modernizes its network. "Beginning this year, we will introduce HSPA+ service in our 1900 MHz PCS spectrum," T-Mobile said. "When we do, our 4G network will be compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone."

A T-Mobile spokeswoman confirmed the statement to FierceWireless but declined to comment on when the refarming to allow HSPA+ services on its 1900 MHz spectrum would begin or how the refarming would proceed. A key element of the refarming is the transfer of AWS spectrum from AT&T to T-Mobile, a condition of the breakup fee AT&T paid T-Mobile parent Deustche Telekom following the collapse of AT&T's $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile late last year. The FCC still needs to approve the transfer.

AT&T began unlocking its non-contract customers' iPhones at their request on Sunday. The operator is requiring that a customer's account be in good standing and be off contract before it will agree to the unlocking. Further, customers who upgraded under one of AT&T's discount upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee will not be allowed to unlock their iPhone.

T-Mobile noted that it currently offers microSIMs for customers who already have a GSM phone they want to use on the T-Mobile network, including iPhones, and that customers simply need to purchase a microSIM card and select a T-Mobile Value plan that suits their needs. Currently, customers who bring unlocked iPhones to T-Mobile can only get 2G EDGE data speeds, since the iPhone does not support T-Mobile's 1700 MHz AWS spectrum, which currently runs T-Mobile's HSPA+ network.

As part of its transition to deploy LTE on its 1700 MHz spectrum, T-Mobile will refarm its PCS spectrum to support both 2G GSM services and HSPA+ services. In a recent FCC filing, T-Mobile said by mid-2013, its expects half of its 1900 MHz spectrum to be devoted to GSM while the other half will run HSPA+ services, and that by then half of its AWS spectrum will support HSPA+ and the other half LTE.

For more:
- see this 9to5Mac post

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