T-Mobile USA today announced upgrades to its network, in several cities, including its hometown Seattle region.
The company said the upgrades will improve voice and data service, signal strength and coverage inside buildings.
T-Mobile’s making the upgrade in part by reallocating spectrum that had been used for 2G service. It’s still supporting 2G phones, but customers are moving toward 4G smartphones.
Specifically, the upgrades are providing 4G service on PCS 1900 spectrum that had been used for 2G.
“We’ve got a critical mass of coverage we feel really good about in terms of quality and consistency,” said Mark McDiarmid, vice president of radio network engineering.
T-Mobile’s clearing a path for customers switching to its network. The upgrade will particularly benefit former AT&T customers who bring their phones to T-Mobile’s network.
T-Mobile said its testing found that unlocked iPhone 4S models running on the upgraded HSPA+ network saw download speeds increase by 70 percent on average compared with AT&T’s network.
This comes just a few days after T-Mobile disclosed plans to begin selling Apple phones directly next year.
Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA last month upgraded its network in Oakland, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Today it’s announcing upgrades in Seattle, Atlanta and Minneapolis, plus additional Bay Area cities.
Locally, areas affected by the upgrade include Seattle proper plus Lynnwood, Bothell, Mill Creek, Edmonds, Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, Kenmore, Mercer Island, North Bend, SeaTac, Burien, Tukwila, Renton and Lake Stevens.
T-Mobile’s been working on the upgrade for months – even extending fiber to towers in the Cascades during Thanksgiving week.
“What we’re doing today is basically unlocking it,” McDiarmid said.
Still in progress are 4G HSPA+ network upgrades in metro areas such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Simultaneously, T-Mobile is preparing to roll out 4G LTE service in 2013. T-Mobile plans to reach 200 million people with LTE service by the end of 2013.
The “refarmed” PCS 1900 spectrum is being used for HSPA+ service that supports download speeds up to 21 megabits per second. T-Mobile’s also offering HSPA+ service on AWS spectrum that supports up to 42 megabits per second. But only some recent, higher-end phones have radios capable of those speeds.
Here’s a list – provided by T-Mobile – of phones that can take advantage of those speeds on the company’s network:
1900 MHz (AWS & PCS) Devices:
Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Exhibit 4G, HTC Radar 4G, Nokia Lumia 710, and HTC One S.
Smartphones: LG Optimus L9, Nokia Lumia 810, Nokia Lumia 710, T-Mobile myTouch & T-Mobile myTouch Q, T-Mobile myTouch by LG, HTC Radar 4G, Samsung Galaxy Exhibit 4G and the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
Tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the T-Mobile SpringBoard with Google.
Laptop Sticks & Mobile HotSpots: T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot, T-Mobile 4G Mobile HotSpot, the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 and the T-Mobile Jet 2.0.
Smartphones: the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G, Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, Google Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Samsung Galaxy Note.
Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1