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T-Mobile widens 4G HSPA+ network in direct bid for iPhone customers

T-Mobile on Wednesday announced that it had activated 4G HSPA+ data networks in three new metropolitan areas, taking direct aim at Apple's U.S. carrier partners by noting customers with unlocked iPhones can enjoy quick data speeds an pay less by switching providers.

The announcement was posted on the fourth-largest U.S. carrier's blog by Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray, who said the iPhone-compatible HSPA+ service on the 1900 MHz band was being rolled out in parts of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Houston. Currently, T-Mobile does not officially carry the iPhone and can only support unlocked versions of the handset.

Ray said the additions were part of T-Mobile's $4 billion plan to bring its existing data network up to 4G speeds, which means installing new equipment and "retuning [its] 4G airwaves to work with more devices." The move is seen as a direct bid to make the carrier's services more attractive to iPhone users.

"Our internal tests of unlocked iPhone 4S devices running over 4G (HSPA+) on our 1900 network recorded on average 70% faster download speeds than iPhone 4S devices on AT&€™s network," Ray said. He went on to mention T-Mobile's unlimited data plans, something that number one and two U.S. wireless telecoms Verizon and AT&T did away with long ago.

It was reported in September that the carrier was working hard to transform its network to support Apple's popular handset, mainly by changing the existing HSPA+ band from 1700 MHz to the 1900 MHz frequency used by AT&T. As an added benefit, the company will be repurposing the 1700 MHz bands for 4G LTE

Wednesday's announcement is not the first time T-Mobile has been seen trying to woo iPhone users to its network. Before the iPhone 5 was released in October, the company began stocking up on nano-SIM cards needed to operate the handset on its network.

T-Mobile nano-SIM
iPhone 5-compatible T-Mobile nano-SIM. | Source: TmoNews

T-Mobile is expected to launch similar services in other metropolitan areas by the end of the year, though the locations have yet to be announced. Currently, T-Mobile's iPhone-ready HSPA+ network is available in Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Washington D.C.