T-Mobile Outlines Plan to Become a 'Challenger' in Wireless Market

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T-Mobile says it has a plan to stop subscriber defection and return its US wireless business to profitability by promoting loudly its "4G" wireless network, improving in-home device coverage, and by offering low-price options for new smartphone buyers. The comments came at an investor event in New York Thursday.

The company admits its wireless business stalled in 2008 because it was slow to install a 3G network. Since then the company says it has spent large amount of capital on upgrading its HSPA+ network, but continues to suffer from subscribers jumping ship to other carriers. Ten percent of former T-Mobile left the network to buy an Apple iPhone, says Phillip Humm, T-Mobile US CEO.

New Wireless Customer Horizons

But T-Mobile estimates that as many as 150 million Americans would like to become first-time smartphone owners, and it hopes its updated value proposition--as the company with the fastest network and the most affordable plans--will attract a healthy number of them.

CTO Neville Ray told investors that T-Mobile has used HSPA+ technology to become the fastest network in the United States. This claim, he says, is backed up by a recent Nielson report, but the report compares T-Mobile's service only with the 3G services of Sprint and Verizon, not the new WiMAX and LTE services.

4G Road to Success

Still, early results from PCWorld's own 13-city tests (going on now) indicated that T-Mobile's network is delivering speeds at least as fast as Sprint's WiMAX network, and in the same ballpark as Verizon LTE. T-Mobile currently offers two phones--the myTouch 4G and the G2--that take advantage of the carrier's high speed HSPA+ network, which it says can reach (theoretical) speeds of 21 megabits per second. It just announced a third 4G phone today--the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, but the actual release data of that phone is still uncertain.

Ray says his company plans to improve in-home smartphone coverage by increasing cell sites, using multiple antenna devices, selling in-home amplifier products that utilize Wi-fi.

Some had expected T-Mobile US to announce partnerships or acquisitions to gain much-needed wireless spectrum for a future LTE network. But the T-Mobile says it will continue to rely on its HSPA+ network for the next few years, and does not see the need to move its entire wireless footprint to LTE in the near term. The LTE network is likely to come in the 2015 time frame, Ray says, and then only in markets where capacity is an issue such as New York City.

Ray adds that T-Mobile's spectrum position is satisfactory until 2015, when it will consider partnering with entities that own or lease spectrum that can be used by a new LTE network.

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