How T-Mobile Could Surprise Us

Nexus 4It wasn’t very long ago that talks of AT&T buying T-Mobile were all you heard about. T-Mobile itself, presently the smallest of the four major US carriers, has been going through a major facelift over the past years. It has gone from simply being an alternative GSM carrier to AT&T to becoming the one major holdout in the unlimited wireless data world.

T-Mobile has one of the fastest (and largest) networks in the US With HSPA+ (a technology that offers superior speeds to the 3G standard) and a growing LTE network; T-Mobile is certainly poised to make a huge impact on the wireless world as we enter into 2013.

One of T-Mobile’s strongest points comes in terms of price. If you bring your own (compatible) handset into a T-Mobile location, you can walk out with unlimited plans starting at $65/month. That includes data and texting, with unlimited minutes available at just $79/month.

Having used T-Mobile’s service in Austin throughout September, I can absolutely confirm that this network (at least for the time being) is the fastest I’ve ever tried short of LTE. T-Mobile has plans for what’s expected to be a next-generation LTE rollout over the next year, ramping up in early 2013.

T-Mobile also turned a few heads last month when it became the only US carrier to receive official support from the latest Google device, the Nexus 4. This was after T-Mobile agreed to let software updates happen as they are available. With most carriers (and in most cases) mobile OS updates have to pass through a long testing and optimization period so the carrier can add its own software to the bundle. It means that some folks don’t get the latest update right away, and often handsets are left generations behind as Android continues to evolve.

What Would an iPhone 5 Mean to T-Mobile?

Right now, speculation is spreading far and wide (including from Merrill Lynch) that T-Mobile will indeed be carrying the iPhone 5 very soon. A T-Mobile dedicated iPhone would change the carrier quite a bit. The ~33 million users already on the network would likely grow as customers dissatisfied with their experience on other carriers may find solace in the slightly lower prices and true unlimited wireless data plans that T-Mobile provides.

Currently, the US has two primary GSM carriers. AT&T is by far the largest, but T-Mobile is still a competitor in this space. Being able to provide a viable alternative to AT&T to the international market is also a big way that T-Mobile could gain from this type of announcement.

Whatever sits in the cards for T-Mobile in the future, it’s clear (at least for now) that AT&T has a lot more competition from T-Mobile in 2013.

Image: T-Mobile

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Ryan Matthew Pierson