T-Mobile (iPhone coming soon teaser)

Earlier today, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier T-Mobile USA annuounced it will start officially selling Apple’s iPhone on April 12. And in dropping annual contracts in favor of monthly installments, the telco unveiled the new Simple Choice Plan and LTE coverage in seven major U.S. cities.

Additional details trickled in post-announcement and one particular tidbit has immediately captured our attention: Apple has actually troubled to re-tool the AT&T iPhone 5 for the Deutsche Telekom-owned carrier.

The re-jigged hardware now supports T-Mobile’s Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bandwidths, but the change in turn has affected existing AT&T customers who plan on switching to T-Mobile. Full details are right after the break…

First, a little backgrounder.

The Cupertino firm maintains several iPhone hardware versions that cater to the world’s fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) flavors, as well as 3G GSM and CDMA standards.

Let me illustrate the LTE fragmentation briefly: prior to today’s announcement, the iPhone 5 used to come in three variants: GSM model A1428 for LTE bands 4 and 17; GSM/CDMA model A1429 for LTE bands 1, 3 and 5; and CDMA variant for China, model A1442 suporting LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25.

Now, AWS radios typically use microwave frequencies in two segments: from 1710 to 1755 MHz for uplink, and from 2110 to 2155 MHz for downlink. In the U.S. alone, a few telcos use AWS spectrum, like Big River Broadband, Cincinnati Bell, Mosaic Telecom, Cricket Wireless and of course T-Mobile.

Smaller Canadian providers also use AWS bands. The full list of LTE networks and bandwidths is available on Wikipedia.

iPhone 5 (two-up, front, back, flat)

An Apple representative explained to Engadget it had to re-tool AT&T’s iPhone 5 model A1428 because that device cannot be updated through software to support T-Mobile’s AWS bandwidths.

“Apple affirmed to us that it’s not something that can be enabled via a simple software update for A1428 iPhone units already in circulation,” the publication explains.

An unintended consequence: the current AT&T A1428 iPhone 5 is notably slower on T-Mobile’s network than the re-tooled version Apple made for T-Mobile.

In layman’s terms: existing AT&T customers looking to jump ship are better served buying a brand new iPhone 5 from T-Mobile next month unless, of course, they’re fine with their AT&T iPhone 5 operating slower on T-Mobile’s network due to lack of full AWS support.

AnandTech sheds more light, stating the tweaked A1428 iPhone 5 for T-Mobile is identical hardware to the AT&T A1428 hardware, “it’s just a matter of enabling those modes in the transceiver for WCDMA”.

The re-tooled hardware also supports DC-HSPA+ (42.2 Mbps downlink) on AWS, the publication notes, adding this means “speedy fallback if you detach from LTE and are in a T-Mobile market with two WCDMA carriers.”

Here’s T-Mobile CEO’s “Un-carrier” pitch.

Love that shirt, by the way.

Apple confirmed to Engadget that its online store and 24-hour locations will start carrying the re-tooled A1428 SIM-unlocked on April 12 at 12:01 AM so “eager jetsetters that are simply looking for a frictionless way to purchase an unlocked iPhone 5 that works on both AT&T and T-Mobile’s LTE bands have but a few weeks to wait.”

And should your credit clear, Apple will also support T-Mobile’s $99.99 upfront price on its web store.

Wrapping up, all A1428 iPhone 5 devices, including those sold by AT&T, should be AWS compatible on or until a little bit after April 12.

Again, these new A1428 units will work on both T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s LTE at full speeds (in addition to supporting a bunch of LTE bands around the world) – though the pesky problem of AT&T’s strict unlocking policy still persist.

T-Mobile iPhone FCC testing

By the way, under T-Mobile’s new terms of business both the iPhone 5 and other devices remain locked to its network until it’s fully paid for through monthly installments, at which point the wireless company will happily apply the unlock.

On a final note, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has now cleared the new A1428 iPhone 5 model for the T-Mobile network, complete with AWS support.

Check out the re-jigged hardware being put through its paces at FCC labs in the above photo.

So, are you planning to switch to T-Mobile and support its “Un-carrier” initiative?

  • Manuel Molina

    I didn’t notice but until this dude came along, T-Mobile kind of sucked. It seems after 6 months of the time he has been CEO of T-Mo, he’s been making a lot of good changes that might save the carrier that almost went to crap.

    I live in NYC and T-Mobile is great in this area and barely has anyone on it, so maybe I’ll jump ships. Although I’m on Verizon and pay 55 for unlimited LTE and 450 minutes, I’m starting to see the drop in speed from Verizon due to their network slowing down as more iPhone 5 LTE users continue to join. With that being said, I’m curious to know if I can just take my iPhone 5 that I already have to them and tell Verizon F off and how many others would do the same.

    • i believe the iphone 5 was unlocked (from Jeff’s post) due to the band Verizon’s LTE was on but you prob get t-mobile’s 3G network. you are probably better off checking with someone you know w/T-Mo to be sure, at least in your coverage area.

    • hadaters

      haha! this guy! complaining about unlimited LTE data at $55 per month! dude you cray, bro!

      fyi, i have at&t unltd in nyc too, and the speed does suck, compared to the suburbs. but i suspect it’s still faster than what t-mo can provide right now.

      • Manuel Molina

        If you’re looking at 2MB per second, at 55 a month with only 450 minutes and having to use Google Voice to have text messages in order to stay away from a share-plan that I would be forced to be in, am I really winning or complining?

      • hadaters

        i see…
        not having, and not being able to add texting anymore without the share-plan would suck.
        although they don’t always get the bad rep like at&t, verizon is just as evil, and a big bully!

        fyi, you can easily find people who will actually pay to take over your account with the unltd data through transfer of ownership, especially if you’re out of contract.

        good luck.

    • TonyVee73

      My wife’s iPhone 5 is from Verizon and is on the T-Mobile’s 3G/E network. I live in NYC

      • Milad Khahil

        Ohh, didn’t know you can use a CDMA iPhone on GSM Network … This must be the Verizon Global iPhone 5 … Forgot …

  • Do you know if this new T-Mobile deal is subject to credit approval?

    • yes. I went to tmobile yesterday to open the Uncarrier plan. You must have SSN and credit approval

    • ghulamsameer

      I think it is. At least to be eligible for the EIPs.

  • chjode

    I’m still waiting for the T-Mobile frequency refarming. It’s EDGE everywhere I go.

    • You sure you don’t have it “off” in the settings?

      • chjode

        Yeppers. I have an AT&T SIM that gets “4G” in the same location. I just tested it now and got 5mbps on AT&T and 0.09mbps on T-Mobile. At least the T-Mobile signal is strong (-80 dB).

      • Damn I imagined tmobile will get 3G there first…

        Here in Texas I have 3G everywhere, now all I need is LTE.

    • TonyVee73

      Yeah, it’s tough. In NYC, it’s hit or miss. At home, I’m on 3G. At my moms, E. walk up the block and I’m on 3G.

      3G I can live with. E just plain hurts.

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  • TonyVee73

    So are the iPhone 4’s and 4S’s that T-Mobile will sell the same as the AT&T counterparts?

    • The iPhone 4/4S hasn’t been modified, that’s why t-Mobile said these two devices will be available in “select markets” where it’s network has been refarmed to be iPhone-compatible (3G HSPA+)

      • TonyVee73

        So will the 3G reception (not sure if that’s the right term) on a T-Mobile iPhone 5 be the same as an unlocked AT&T iPhone 5 pr Verizon iPhone 5 that is being used on T-Mobile?

  • Jonathan

    But I don’t understand, lets say someone gets the iPhone 5 for $99, let the first Bill Cycle run, doesn’t pay for the bill. What happens to the iPhone?

    • hadaters


      i can imagine the person who gets the line will take a hit in their credit report if they don’t pay the bill. but is that all? will it really be that simple? given how easy it is to unlock at&t iPhone 5 (albeit technically illegal for now), there is a very good likelihood of a lot unscrupulous people taking advantage of this and selling iPhones and not paying anymore.
      but then again, t-mobile already knew that!

      • Jonathan

        Although, many things are coming out like R SIM 7’s and other typed unlocked materials to just get on that $99 deal. T-Mobile should watch what they are doing.

    • I’ve wondered this as well. I plan to jump ship from AT&T, maybe. I’m waiting for the next generation iPhone to hit first. Tmobiles plans are pretty good right now.

    • Stays locked to T-Mobile it’s paid for fully through monthly installments. T-Mobile is basically giving you interest-free financing for the hardware and allowing for greater transparency by not tying the device to a long-term service contract.

    • +the thing that happens is the imei number on the phone will be put on a blocked list
      so you wont be able to use the phone
      and as for the unlocking of phones. the government is on our side when it comes to it. it falls under the jailbreaking law that they put up years ago. if it’s yours then you can do what you want with it. so it’s in the process

    • Bradley Wilkinson

      T-Mobile will put the IMEI of the device into a shared blocklist to keep it off of AT&T/T-Mobile networks and their MVNO partners. Essentially, rendering it useless. It was a big consideration with the $99 financing price. They expected it to be abused.

  • Since they sell the A1428 model in Canada, does that mean we will see this retooled version here as well?

  • I’ll be there! Bye-bye, AT&T!!

  • Winski

    So, for us that bought a new, un-looked iPhone 5 in December to take advantage of the T-Mumble program to bring the iPhone over and now find ourselves ‘locked out’ of most of T-Mumble’s network, we’re not feeling too good about this hose job. We have to buy ANOTHER iPhone 5 ??? STONE STUPID.

    • You might be able to get it exchanged if you take it to an apple store. Just explain to them that tmobile hasn’t refarmed the network in your area.

      • Winski

        I’ll try anything at this point… I’ve only tried getting this right for five years!!


      • I’m wondering the same. Since soon AT&T will be updating their iPhones with the new retweaked AWS compatible model, could you just go into am Apple Store and ask for a replacement (even if you say there’s something wrong with it) and get a new model for free?

      • Winski

        Good question…. We need to find out !!!

  • Tikimaker

    I think it is genius of T-Mobile to sell you a no contract phone plan but sign you up for 24 payments on an iPhone. So I wonder if you could buy the iPhone from T- mobile at the full price which is $69.00 less then Apple’s retail unlocked iPhone then use it one month then switch carriers.

  • Alvin Ma

    And here it is, doesn’t anyone wonder what takes apple so long to make an AWS compatible iPhone? It seems pretty easy to “retweak” it?

  • the thing that happens is the imei number on the phone will be put on a blocked list
    so you wont be able to use the phone

  • Since soon AT&T will be updating their iPhones with the new retweaked AWS compatible model, could you just go into an Apple Store and ask for a replacement (even if you say there’s something wrong with it) and get a new model for free?

  • Shivam

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  • Orioles_Nation

    Which bands will the new A1428 model support? The same bands as the old one?

  • Milad Khahil

    I wonder what speed you get with the current att iphone on Tmo network …

  • Siddharth Desai

    It’s basically the same thing. It’s just that T-mobile’s network uses different frequencies.

    You’re good with AT&T, not a great reason to switch.

  • ok soo looking @ my iphone i see A1429 should i be happy ?

    • Matthew

      Depends. If you live in the US it means you have Verizon or Sprint on your phone. If you like that carrier be happy!

  • FrankensteinBlack

    OBAMA to the rescue, Again! Hey Bagger Right wingers, if McPalin or MitRyan was in the whitehouse, their FCC and justice department would have allowed AT&T to gobble up T-Mobile like a blue and white Packman on a pink dot! Your precious connected life and mobile device costs would have sky rocketed, PERIOD!! And if you’re on T-Mo or plan to migrate, thank this administration for allowing competition to thrive. The rest of you ingrate hard core baggers are sofa king retarded. Yea, keep voting for right wing nutz. Sayin…

  • So what does this mean for me if I have an unlocked Verizon iPhone 5? I’m running a strong T-Mobile 3G signal right now. Will I be able to get LTE when it becomes available for T-Mobile??

  • Matthew

    Would it be possible to get a cheaper T-Mobile iPhone and pop in an AT&T SIM?

    • TonyVee73

      From what I’ve read here, the T-Mobile iPhone are locked to their network.

      • Matthew

        You are right. I posted that comment before I knew that.

  • Ruben James

    Well thanks for the information on the T-Mobile iPhone 5. I bought one and it’s been great so far, even if Denver hasn’t received the LTE update. After getting an idea of how fast the network is, I am that much more excited about LTE arriving soon. A little while ago, I took a little vacation from my job at DISH and got to try out LTE in Vegas. On the trip, I was able to keep up to date with my shows using the DISH Anywhere app on my phone, and as a result of using the speedier network, streaming quality was awesome.