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T-Mobile is the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the United States and also the furthest behind of the four major telcos in terms of deployment of the fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) cellular technology.

You’ll recall T-Mobile has only begun testing its LTE last month, ahead of its April 12 iPhone distribution deal with Apple.

Right now, T-Mobile has LTE towers in just seven cities and their coverage plans call for 100 million LTE users by the end of the summer and 200 million by the end of the year.

Despite the slow pace of LTE deployment, the carrier thinks it can do better and take its rivals by surprise by deploying LTE Advanced fast, tapping its existing hardware already in place…

VentureBeat sat down with T-Mobile’s head of radio network and evolution strategy Yasmin Karimli, who said this:

I think we’ll probably be able to move faster [to LTE-Advanced] because we have the latest hardware in place. Others may have hardware that’s two years old, so they may have to rip and replace.

Last year, the firm planned to install LTE-Advanced Release 10 equipment at 37,000 cell sites for a 2013 launch in 18 or 19 of the top 25 U.S. markets.

A major enhancement of the LTE standard, LTE Advanced theoretically allows for simultaneous download and upload speeds of 300 megabits per second, or three times faster than current LTE theoretical speeds.

If other carriers indeed will have replace their equipment in order to upgrade to LTE Advanced, T-Mobile could disadvantage its rivals provided it can roll out the technology fast. T-Mobile’s comment in respect to its rivals is a bit murky as Wikipedia states that LTE Advanced “should be compatible with first release LTE equipment, and should share frequency bands with first release LTE.”

Of course, existing LTE devices such as the iPhone 5 won’t be able to take advantage of LTE Advanced speeds without a hardware update.

By the way, T-Mobile ditched the Carly character for Frankenstein in its newest Simple Choice commercial. It aired during the NBA playoffs last night and takes nice pot shots at AT&T (via AdAge).

What’s really noteworthy about LTE Advanced is that it can go beyond 300 megabits per second because the technology is based on the IMT-Advanced specifications, which allows for speeds of one gigabit per second.

The big question, however, is whether or not the T-Mobile network gets clobbered once customers stop fleeing the network.

On Monday, the company apologized to customers who couldn’t place their orders because its web site and retail systems went down on Saturday, apparently a result of the increased demand.

And in an effort to make the tethering feature easier to understand, T-Mobile said it will update its Value and Classic Simple Choice Plans to bundle the tethering feature with unlimited data plans.

T-Mboile tethering bundles
Image via TmoNews.

Specifically, the 2.5GB unlimited data plan with tethering now costs $30 per month. Previously, customers had to sign up for a $20 per month Unlimited Data plan and an additional $10 per month tethering service.