T-Mobile iPhone 5

This is kind of interesting. T-Mobile’s long-awaited LTE network has been spotted in the wild, offering up super-fast data in a suburb of New York City. The carrier is the only one left of the major four in the US that doesn’t offer the 4G tech, but it’s expected to finally launch this year. And a curious subscriber just discovered one of its sites in Astoria, Queens

t-mobile lte

GigaOM reader Milan Milanović made the discovery with his LG Nexus 4 handset:

“Milanović said that the Astoria cells are actually invisible to most phones even if they support LTE at the proper band. He had to force his way onto the network by setting his Nexus 4 (which unofficially supports LTE in T-Mo’s 4G airwaves) to LTE-only mode and manually scan for a network connection. Milanović encountered a 5 MHz-by-5 MHz link in the 1700 MHz/2100 MHz frequencies, but he was allocated only half of the 37 Mbps of bandwidth that the network could theoretically support.”

The site goes on to note that T-Mobile has already completed construction on a handful of other LTE sites, including some in Las Vegas and Kansas City. Back in January, the carrier’s CEO John Legere said that it was hoping to light up its first LTE markets “within a few weeks.” But so far, we haven’t heard anything outside of these various scattered reports.

If you’re wondering why we’re so concerned with the status of T-Mobile’s LTE rollout, it’s because the provider is widely expected to start carrying the iPhone in the next few months. The news was confirmed earlier this year by Legere, at the Citi Global Conference, who told reporters the carrier now sees around 100K unlocked iPhone activations per month.

T-Mobile is certainly making a lot of moves right now. And when you combine its LTE rollout, its growing HSPA+ network, its just-approved MetroPCS merger, and its newly-released unlimited plans, it’s making a pretty good case for itself for future iPhone users. But a lot hangs on what its new ‘no subsidies’ model looks like, which is due to start anytime now.