Almost every U.S. T-Mobile customer wants to know when the carrier will be activating its 3G network. After all, it is the only major carrier in the United States not to offer 3G. Though it has slowly begun introducing 3G-capable handsets, the carrier has remained maddeningly vague on when the service will activate.
But a news conference at the GSMA World Congress, T-Mobile CEO Hamid Akhavan dropped a few hints. When I asked him when the magic day will come, he didn't give an exact date but he did promise it would happen by this summer. Akhavan said the carrier has had to work out quite a few spectrum issues (well, of course), and that the process took longer than expected. If you remember, the 3G network was set for 2007, so it must have taken a lot longer. Akhavan assured us that the issues have been resolved, and that the carrier is putting together a "robust" network that will kick off in major metro areas. He even went so far as to say it will be the best 3G network in the United States. Well, we'll see about that. Later, I spoke with Peter Dobrow from T-Mobile USA. He concurred that 3G would happen in the first half of this year. What's more, he said T-Mobile had to negotiate quite a bit with Uncle Sam to get the necessary approval. Why has the carrier introduced 3G-capable handsets without a 3G network? Well, Dobrow said they just wanted to be ready to go when the network is switched on.
In handset news, Akhavan said the carrier is promising a fourth quarter launch of a Google Android device. That's news to me, considering the last time I asked the carrier for a launch date, a spokesman wouldn't confirm if T-Mobile would even offer an Android phone. Unfortunately, Akhavan wouldn't say which regions would one.
On the iPhone front T-Mobile will bring the Apple device to Austria by the end of the year. T-Mobile already offers the iPhone in Germany, but Akhavan said he wants to bring it to all the carrier's markets. That's more than possible I'm sure in countries such as the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary. However, I don't know how they plan on bringing the iPhone to T-Mobile USA, given AT&T's exclusive on the device. That's one where we'll have to wait and see what happens.
I also got the chance to roam around T-Mobile's glass box of a booth and check out their European phones. Not surprisingly, even though I think T-Mobile offers a decent selection of handsets in the United States, it just about brought me to tears. Among the handsets I saw were a Nokia 5310, the LG KF600 (the GSM version of Verizon's LG Venus), the Sony Ericsson K550, and the Samsung J700. The Motorola Razr2 V8 (a T-Mobile USA phone) also was present, but it looked mighty out of place. Poor Moto.