T-Mobile LTE 4G in 2013?

With AT&T’s failed attempt to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion still fresh on everyone’s minds, Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann told investors in a prepared statement that the future of its U.S.-based operations will likely not include a sale. There have already been a number of rumors circulating about a potential partnership with rivals, including MetroPCS and Sprint Nextel. 

Spectrum T-Mobile received from AT&T as part of that merger collapse has put its U.S. operations in a stronger position to move forward with LTE network plans.  T-Mobile's LTE rollout is expected to cost the carrier around $4 billion. There has been no word from the carrier on where it might get the additional funds, nor if those funds would come from parent company Deutsche Telekom, which pocketed $3 billion in break-up fees from AT&T.

T-Mobile announced a similar network upgrade plan last year just prior to AT&T’s acquisition bid.  T-Mobile plans to install new equipment at 37,000 cell sites and re-farm spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band currently used for its GSM-based services to launch HSPA+ services, which would then allow for the re-farming of its 1.7/2.1 GHz spectrum currently used for HSPA+ services to bolster the spectrum gleaned from the merger break up to launch LTE in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band.  T-Mobile LTE spectrum still needs to move through regulatory approval but should allow the carrier to be a better match for offering Apple’s iPhone device, which in its current form taps the 1.9 GHz band for HSPA access.

However, T-Mobile USA currently has about 7,000 towers, which would put it at about No. 5 in domestic tower ownership. The carrier owns strategic assets in California and the Northeast corridor, two regions of the country where it is often difficult to build towers. T-Mobile USA counts nearly 700 towers in the San Francisco Bay area, close to 2,000 in Southern California and close to 700 in the Northeast region of the country. Reports of T-Mobile USA’s interest in selling its tower assets have been circling the mobile industry for years, though the carrier’s recent announcement that it would be spending $4 billion upgrading its network to LTE seems to have placed further emphasis on that sale.

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