Ina Fried

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T-Mobile Still Plugging Away at iPhone-Ready Network

T-Mobile is working hard on a transition that will allow the iPhone to run at full speed on its network.

By the end of next month, the company says some 2,500 cell sites will be equipped with the necessary gear to operate in the 1900Mhz spectrum used by AT&T’s iPhones. The goal is to have such service throughout its major markets by the end of the year, CTO Neville Ray reiterated in an interview with AllThingsD on Thursday.

Whether T-Mobile will have an iPhone to sell is another matter. At a minimum, Ray said that the company wants to serve as an attractive alternative for unlocked iPhone owners. AT&T has started unlocking devices for customers who have fulfilled the terms of their contracts.

“We’ll hopefully attract a lot more iPhones,” Ray said, reiterating past statements that the carrier has more than 1 million iPhones on its network today, even though its data rates are limited to 2G speeds.

Beyond the potential to lure bargain-hunting iPhone owners, Ray said the move to 1900MHz should allow many of T-Mobile’s existing smartphone customers to get better reception and performance.

“It’s like two new lanes on the road,” Ray said.

Additionally, it should give T-Mobile an opportunity to nab some lucrative traffic from overseas roaming customers visiting the U.S.

Not only do all of the other major U.S. carriers offer the iPhone, but an increasing number of smaller carriers do, including small regional players and prepaid brands such as Leap’s Cricket.

Aiming to recover from its failed effort to sell itself to AT&T, T-Mobile has said it plans a major marketing campaign and rebranding effort for the second half of the year. In the meantime, Ray said he wishes more people would recognize the speed and performance of the company’s existing network as well as the value it is offering to customers.

The company is trying out the new iPhone-compatible network configuration at various spots –including San Francisco’s Moscone Center. That move attracted a lot of attention as it was noticed by iPhone customers just ahead of this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference. T-Mobile has insisted that was pure coincidence.

“Nobody believes us but it was,” Ray said.

Beyond installing the networking gear needed to serve the iPhone and other 1900Mhz devices, T-Mobile is, where it can, also putting in the equipment needed for the LTE network it hopes to begin running next year.

The company has said it plans to cover 200 million people with that network by the end of next year, but has not said when and where the network will begin operations.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”