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AT&T roaming deal gives T-Mobile 850MHz, 1,900MHz bands

updated 11:05 am EST, Tue December 20, 2011

ATT deal with T-Mo may see new frequencies

T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom in new details surrounding its roaming deal with AT&T has suggested it may get much more coverage than today. A seven-year pact with the carrier will give it not just licenses for Advanced Wireless Spectrum bands (usually 1,700MHz) in 128 markets but should also let T-Mobile use AT&T's existing 3G network. The step would give it access to the same 850MHz and 1,900MHz bands and theoretically allow iPhones or other devices to connect freely without or alongside T-Mobile's regular AWS bands.

Certain phones on T-Mobile already support AT&T's 3G bands, including the HTC Amaze 4G. Some of these were likely adapted around the presumption that the AT&T deal would close, although more hardware makers are now likely to have pentaband 3G chips that can support both AT&T and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile already has some limited access to the 1,900MHz band that it's using for its 84Mbps HSPA+ expansion. The new deal, however, could lead to more consistent access for those devices.

Adding the roaming deal and new licenses gives T-Mobile a significant if potential competitive boost by increasing the addressable population base from 230 million to 280 million. It partly assuages financial problems, although $3 billion of the $4 billion being paid out as a breakup fee is going towards Deutsche Telekom debt and not the carrier.

No guarantees exist that the competitive shift will see T-Mobile get the iPhone, but it would make any adaptation easier. On the record, the fourth-largest US network has said it's desirous of the iPhone and has mostly been hampered by lacking the needed 3G bands, which could change with the roaming agreement. [via Phone Scoop]

By Electronista Staff


  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2009


    what's in it for AT&T users?

    Does the roaming agreement give "free" roaming of T-Mobile spectrum to AT&T users? I'm not sure any of my iPhones could make use of any of T-Mobile's spectrum but maybe the 4S can. Will this roaming deal help AT&T iPhone users in the future or will it only help T-Mobile phone users? I live in an area that has better T-Mobile voice and maybe 4G coverage than AT&T but that's because I live in the Puget Sound area in the vicinity of Bellevue, WA. The rest of my family plan members are in areas better covered by AT&T.

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jul 2006



    Thanks for an article clarifying what the settlement breakup means. Right now, it seems so greatly to the advantage of T-Mobile, that I wonder if the company was secretly rooting for the acquisition to fail.

    It'd be great if Electronista could clarify what these new frequencies and roaming access means to iPhone users, particularly those with older models. Those who don't want an iPhone can always get a T-Mobile model that offers the services they need. But, while iPhone users can easily unlock and get access to T-Mobile'.s phone service, the available data services have been slow EDGE. Will this change that and, if so, how and where?

    I'd add T-Mobile has always had excellent service at great prices. The lack of full iPhone support is perhaps the main reason they're losing clients. But T-Mobile doesn't have to be licensed to sell iPhones to offer excellent iPhone services. The millions of older, post-contract iPhones around could do that. All T-Mobile needs to do is offer plans catering to iPhone users.

  1. thomasoniii

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2010


    Nothing's in it for AT&T Users

    Nothing's in it for AT&T users. The whole point is that if AT&T wasn't successfully able to buy T-Mobile that T-Mobile would be compensated substantially for the -huge- negative impact on business the buyout process would cause. After all, how many people would be eager to jump into a 2 year contract with a company that may vanish in 6 months? And T-Mobile was badly hurt by the merger attempt.

    So this is their concillation prize. AT&T would've gotten all of T-Mobile had the deal gone through, and this big cash and spectrum payout was what they were wagering on getting it. You win some, you lose some.

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