T-Mobile's LTE network has been a long time coming, and the company is finally ready to flip the switch before the end of this month. It's part of a system-wide modernization effort from the carrier, which Engineering Vice President Tom Ellefson said should improve the T-Mobile experience for nearly every one of its customers, whether they have LTE or not. New antennas and machinery, installed alongside the requisite LTE hardware, should mean better and faster coverage for everyone— Product Management Director Randy Meyerson called it "a Christmas morning moment."
LTE, and the hardware to use it, should come quickly from T-Mobile
LTE connectivity does require new hardware, and the company has also issued an update today that activates the dormant LTE support in the Galaxy Note II. The Note II is for now the only LTE-capable device on T-Mobile's network, but the company's launching the BlackBerry Z10 with LTE at the end of this month as well, and says a lineup of other LTE devices is coming this year — a lineup that will surely include the Galaxy S4, and apparently an LTE-capable Galaxy S III as well. As for where LTE would be activated first, T-Mobile's reps played coy, but did say that the installation process is completely finished in both Las Vegas and Kansas City — all that's left is turning it on. T-Mobile has promised to have LTE active for 200 million people by the end of this year, so its rollout is going to have to be quick either way.
T-Mobile may be late to the LTE game, but it wouldn't be in it at all without the failed AT&T merger. "The breakup gave us a bunch of spectrum, which was advantageous," Ellefson said. "We didn't have a path to where we're going without that." The company's also made deals with Verizon and MetroPCS, and is now rolling out LTE fairly quickly. But purely from a speed perspective, Ellefson claims T-Mobile doesn't need LTE as much as Verizon or AT&T. He touts T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 network, which already offers speeds comparable to other carriers' AT&T network, and says that for users LTE will offer faster and more efficient communications, but the fall from LTE will be far softer as well. "We've got a great plan," Ellefson said, "and we've got a great footprint to get going."