T-Mobile engineer talks iPhone, LTE and failed AT&T merger

Out of the top four carriers in the US, T-Mobile is the only one that doesn’t officially carry the iPhone, or have an active LTE network. As you can imagine, this has sparked a lot of curiosity in the company’s plans for the future.

Well, for all of you curious types, we’ve come across a Reddit AMA that has been going on all morning with a T-Mobile RF engineer. He’s been answering questions regarding the iPhone, the carrier’s plans for LTE and more…

First, here’s a little back story on the engineer:

“I am a senior T-Mobile RF engineer. I’m currently heavily involved in our network modernization and LTE upgrades. In the past though, I’ve done just about everything from troubleshooting customer complaints, new site design and development, network optimization, and much more.”

Now, here’s a few of the more interesting exchanges from the Q&A:

Can you talk briefly about how much traffic on GERAN you see from iPhone customers?

“We have about a million iPhones on our network now. 99% of their traffic is 2G/EDGE only right now, so obviously their load is dwarfed by everything else. The iPhone is a significant part of the modernization project. Once implemented, iPhones will work on U1900 at much higher speeds.”

From your point of view, are caps and unlimited data plans really backed up across the board, or just in a few markets?

“It depends on a lot of things. In general, I think caps are stupid, especially the way that we handle them. Events (concerts, sport evens, malls @ Christmas) crush us though.”

What were your thoughts on the proposed merger with AT&T?

 “I liked the idea at the time. We were bleeding customers pretty heavily, and merging would have combined both networks and yielded something better than either alone.”

And finally, on LTE plans:

“We’re going with remote radios as much as we can, for LTE, UMTS, and GSM. LTE will launch with a single 10 MHz channel, 5 up 5 down.”

T-Mobile has previously announced that it doesn’t plan to launch its LTE network until early 2013, which could hurt its chances of finally becoming an iPhone partner this fall. But its work to upgrade its network to work with current iPhone 3G data may work in its favor.

What’s really interesting is that the carrier obviously knows that its lack of the iPhone and proper iPhone support are two of its biggest hurdles to acquiring new customers. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out after the new iPhone is unveiled this fall.