T-Mobile USA is a cellular telecommunications provider and the United States based subsidiary of T-Mobile International AG, itself based in Bonn, Germany. The US company was previously known as VoiceStream Wireless or Powertel. In May 2001, VoiceStream was acquired by Deutsche Telekom for US$24 billion, and in September 2002 changed the company name nationally to T-Mobile. Headquartered in Factoria, Bellevue, Washington, T-Mobile USA is currently the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. market with 32.1 million customers as of the end of the second quarter 2008 and annual revenue of US$17.1 billion for their 2006 fiscal year.
T-Mobile USA tends to compete on price and advertises heavily to the youth market. Historically, they have also pioneered new features; they were the first U.S. carrier to launch a ringback tones service nationally (CallerTunes), video messaging and "HiFi Ringers" (ringtones which are clips of an actual song).
As of 2007, T-Mobile USA has captured at least 11 J.D. Power Awards in the areas of customer care, call quality, and overall customer satisfaction. In particular, it has dominated the wireless industry in the area of customer care and customer satisfaction, winning all customer care and satisfaction awards for all six surveyed regions for five years in a row.
A T-Mobile store in San Jose, California
Through acquisitions of Aerial, APT, Digiph PCS, Eliska, General Cellular Corp, GSM Alliance, Intercel, Omnipoint, Pacific Northwest Cellular, Powertel, SOL Wireless, SunCom Wireless, Voicestream, Western PCS, GSM Facilities, and Western Wireless, T-Mobile has added sites to its network. The native T-Mobile network currently consists of 36,400 cell sites and predominantly uses the GSM/GPRS 1900 MHz frequency-band, making it the largest 1900 MHz network in the United States. Service is available in 46 of the top 50 US markets, reaching 244 million potential customers. By mid-2008 the network is forecast to expand to 98 of 100 largest markets and 282 million potential customers.
Data service is available to most users in the form of the older General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) or newer Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE). EDGE coverage is stated as being available within at least 75% of the GSM footprint. 3G service in the form of Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is available in a few cities and is being expanded to cover most major markets.
Although T-Mobile USA has the smallest native network of all the national U.S. carriers, it has roaming arrangements with a number of regional carriers, such as Centennial Wireless, Dobson, and Unicel, and with the national carriers AT&T Mobility and the Alltel GSM network. These carriers predominately provided service using the GSM 850 MHz band, and a dual band phone is required to use both the native and affiliate networks. When roaming on these affiliated networks airtime is deducted from the user’s plan, as opposed to a surcharge, effectively expanding nationwide coverage.
As of 2008, prepaid customers have almost all of the postpaid domestic roaming privileges and restricted international roaming to Canada and Mexico.
While international roaming is available to most customers, it must first be activated through customer service. Once provisioned, there is no monthly fee to maintain international roaming coverage.
In September 2006, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offered, at auction, licenses in the first Advanced Wireless Services band. This band was an area of wireless spectrum, half in the 1700MHz (1.7GHz) and half in the 2100 MHz (2.1GHz) frequencies, that was already in use by government services but would be available at some point in the future when those services moved to different frequencies.
The auction made numerous licenses available in overlapping market-area, economic-areas, and regional levels. Each license was individually bid upon, and T-Mobile was the winner in 120 license auctions, at an aggregate price of $4.18 billion. As part of its winnings, T-Mobile gained nationwide coverage of 1.7 GHz and 2.1 GHz, with numerous areas being supplemented with addition licenses. Examples include New York City, Chicago, and Boston where T-Mobile acquired one-third (33%) of the available spectrum, or San Francisco, Houston, and Miami where they acquired 45% of the available spectrum.
Two weeks after confirming their winning bids, on October 6, 2006, T-Mobile announced their intentions to create a UMTS third generation, or 3G, cellular network with the spectrum they had won. T-Mobile USA said it would utilize and build on the experience of T-Mobile Europe, which already implemented its own 3G network, and at roll-out they intend to offer 7.2 Mbit/s service, making it the fastest 3G network in the United States. The upgrade was forecast to cost $2.6 billion, in addition to the $4.12 billion spent to acquire the spectrum. T-Mobile, however, was unable to deliver on the promise of 7.2 Mbit/s HSDPA at launch. Currently, T-Mobile’s 3G service caps out at 1.8 Mbit/s, half the top speed of AT&T’s 3.6 Mbit/s HSDPA network.
During the Oct 6 announcement, T-Mobile indicated they had already begun to deploy about half of the upgraded equipment, beginning in major markets such as New York City. With the equipment in place, they would be able to activate their network as soon as the current users, various government services, vacated these frequencies. T-Mobile had hoped to have its network activated by mid-2007, but as of September 2007 the government users had not vacated the AWS band.
T-Mobile began selling their first 3G-capable phone, the Nokia 6263, in November 2007. They announced in February 2008 that their 3G network will finally be activated "within the next few months" and released in the New York City market on May 1, 2008.
Beyond the Nokia 6263, T-Mobile officially sells the Nokia 3555, Samsung T639, T819, Samsung Behold, Sony Ericsson TM506, and their flagship 3G device, the T-Mobile G1 which all support the WCDMA 1700MHz and 2100MHz frequencies.
So far T-Mobile has launched its 3G network in Most of their Top 29 Markets with 3G networks active already. Additional markets will launch as they are tuned for optimal performance and in conjunction with marketing programs for new services or handsets.
The merger of General Cellular and Pacific Northwest Cellular formed Western Wireless, a cellular provider for several western and southwestern states, as well as Hawaii. After a successful public offering by Western Wireless, the VoiceStream Wireless division was formed. In 1999, this division was spun off as an independent company, and it proceeded to immediately acquire the regional GSM carriers Aerial Communications, in the midwest, and Omnipoint, in the northeast.
In May 2001, VoiceStream and the southern regional carrier Powertel were acquired by Deutsche Telekom for US$24 billion. In September 2002, the company’s name changed nationally to T-Mobile.
On September 17, 2007 T-Mobile announced the adquisition of SunCom Wireless for $2.4 billion in cash. The acquisition expanded T-Mobile’s network coverage to North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. It also added Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to T-Mobile’s footprint. At the end of the second quarter of 2007, SunCom had more than 1.1 million customers. The acquisition was subject to governmental and regulatory approvals as well as approval by SunCom shareholders. The deal closed on February 22, 2008.
As of September 8, 2008 SunCom’s operations formally switched over to T-Mobile.