Wondering if you should be considering that T-Mobile 4G phone purchase now that the merger plan has come to light? Read on.

With the news of the AT&T / T-Mobile merger spreading like wildfire, there have been rumblings about the network compatibility implications of the deal. More accurately, how the merger will affect consumers' use of 4G handsets on their respective carriers.

Make no mistake - it has been confirmed that AT&T will slowly disassemble T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network over time, converting those HSPA+ bands (the "AWS" spectrum) into LTE frequencies. Consumers without at least a Wikipedia-level of 4G knowledge will likely ask why this is necessary if both carriers already use HSPA+ "4G."

They may know that it's generally not possible to use a T-Mobile phone to get 3G while on AT&T, and vice versa. This is because the carriers use two different frequency bands on their respective 3G networks:

  • T-Mobile 3G: 1700/2100MHz ("AWS" spectrum)
  • AT&T 3G: 850/1900MHz

When upgrading their networks to HSPA+, both carriers retained these spectrums for the deployment of their "4G." This is because HSPA+ uses the same hardware and networking infrastructure (the UMTS system) as standard HSPA, and only requires software changes  and more antennas on existing arrays, while it still transmits a signal which standard HSPA  3G phones can utilize. So, essentially, it's the same network - just beefed up.

Both AT&T and T-Mobile's "4G" HSPA+ networks retained the frequencies of the existing 3G networks, and so retain their incompatibility.

This means that your Inspire 4G, myTouch 4G, Galaxy S 4G, G2, and Optimus 3D will never experience a unified HSPA+ experience. None have the proper radio equipment to interface with their former competitors' HSPA+ networks (or 3G at all, for that matter). But there is an exception to the rule: the yet-to-be-released LG G2X. This device will be backwards compatible with AT&T's "4G" HSPA+ network.

You can also probably expect such compatibility on upcoming T-Mobile "4G" phones  this year (at least we hope so), though whether AT&T will do the same is unknown, since there isn't much of a need if they'll just be taking T-Mo's 4G offline anyways.

How long it will take AT&T to fully dismantle T-Mobile's 3G/4G network remains a big question, and that depends largely on how quickly AT&T plans to deploy its LTE network starting later this year. When it does happen, T-Mobile's current 3G and 4G handsets will start to lose data coverage.

Take this information into consideration when deciding your next T-Mobile Android purchase, it may come into play in a not so great way down the road.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • nerdkill

    who would have thought at&t could get any worse. i really hope this doesn't go through, but you know it will.

  • Scott

    you have roughly 18 months until this is even fully approved, so you have no worries until then.

  • Dsnap

    Great. I just got the mytouch 4g. I guess this would have persuaded me otherwise. The good news ifs that I still have a good 11 months until the deal finalizes, and I'll want to upgrade by then.

  • Mike

    Give xda some time, an they could probably find a way around this problem. If not, time for a new phone.

    • grasstrout

      I think this is a hardware issue not something a rom can fix

    • Josh H.

      Unless the guys at XDA can teleport a new antenna into ur phone your SOL.

  • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

    The T-Mobile G2X and the T-Mobile G-Slate are the first in a new series of phones that support UMTS 850/1700/1900/2100 along with GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900.

    • chiDan

      It's not the first. The dell streak 7 was actually the first android to support umts/HSPA+ 850/1700/1900/2100 and gsm/gprs/edge 850/900/1800/1900.
      The first t-mobile 3g/4g device with those bands was actually the dell mini 10, launched just under a year ago. The webconnect data cards also now support those bands too. (The more recent ones)

  • edaddy

    My question is, will the G2X work on AT&T after they deploy their LTE network?? From what I understand it will work on the HSPA+ but LTE??

  • David Ruddock

    The G2X does not have LTE connectivity. So, no.

  • tom p

    whatever happens, its the LTE part i dont like:


    limits, limits and more limits...oh and fees, too..... :(

  • http://emaciatedwildebeest.tumblr.com Jeff

    Just got my G2 in January. AWESOME.

    • Peter

      Don't worry, it will take a year for the merger to even happen, and then even longer after that for the T-Mobile 3G network to be shut down. The G2 will be old news and you will either have a new phone/looking to get a new phone by then.

      It hurts resale value, though.

  • s hugus

    What happens when there is a problem if LTE interferes with GPS? I hear there are some worries over this. I think this is a terrible situation for the consumer.

  • Peter

    The Atrix has UMTS 850/1900/2100
    The UMTS 2100 that the Atrix has is NOT compatible with T-Mobile. Each of the three UMTS bands are independent, both carrying downlink and uplink.
    T-Mobile has only ONE UMTS band, the AWS band. The AWS band has uplink on one frequency and downlink on another frequency.
    The Atrix will work with 0% of the T-Mobile 3G/4G network. It, along with most other American 3G phones (including the Inspire, and the T-Mobile phones) have UMTS 2100 for 3G roaming in Europe.
    T-Mobile compatibility will not matter after that network is shut down. What you want is UMTS 850/1900 support.

    • att

      This story is total BS
      The atrix will not work on t-mobile's AWS 3G/4G

      Stupid bloggers

  • s hugus

    Also what will happen abroad? I have heard that so many times other countries shut off AT&T customers' phone services off when they go abroad. Will LTE work in other countries or will one need a TMoble phone with a data plan? It sounds like we lose again.

  • Noel

    Well part of me is not too worried cz i think this deal may not go through. At least i am hoping that the powers that be will see how bad for competition and innovation this deal might be. Tmo and Sprint help put the two big guys in check from run away cell price plans. I think amongst the big four cell carriers only TMo and Sprint offer reasonable everyth (cell mins,txt and data) price plans for under $80. Sprint alone can not carry that fight..having both of them doing battle for lower prices is a win for consumers on all the networks.

  • At&tBLOWS!

    I have been with T-Mobile for a very longtime since its voicestream days, and for such a crappy provider to dismantle one of the best features of T-Mobile's 4G enabled phones pisses me off. What's worse is I just bought the MyTouch 4G exactly a month ago and I paid full price for it too. Wish the news came earlier I'm beyond angry about this merger and I hope it doesn't go through.

  • chad warfield

    dirty stuff right here. can't stand ATT.

  • Todd

    Brought my parents over from AT&T to my T-Mobile account in November. Guess we'll be switching to Sprint, just before the end of the world as we know it. (I don't really believe in the 2012 thing, but considering all the horrible earthquakes lately, and the sudden revolts.)

  • At&tBLOWS!

    Happened to be out and about today and decided I should get more info on this matter so I went to an official T-Mobile store, after I asked my questions, the puzzled look on the guys face said more to me than anything new said, and another one of the associates said that everything is fine and dandy I have nothing to worry about my response to this was WTF. The dudes had no clue what I was referring to, looks like T-Mobile wanted to keep their employees in the dark just like they did their customers. Not good T-Mobile, not good.

  • Low IQ

    Why is it so hard for AT&T users to understand why T-Mobile users don't have the best thoughts for this merger/buyout?,
    I would think if it was the other way around the AT&T users would feel the same way? Maybe the Frequency difference is affecting the way their brains work? LOL
    But seriously why do so many AT&T users call T-Mobile users problem people? It's not Rocket science stuff to understand?

  • Mike

    I think if I'm on T-Mobile I should upgrade to higher end phones so I enter ATT In-Contract w/a nice phone. I have read ATT has built into the cost of the purchase funding for T-Mobile Customers to be able to upgrade to usable equipment. uy Buy now on Sale...buy buy buy!!!

  • http://gplus.to/yankees George

    the HTC Sensation says it use UMTS: I (2100); II (1900); IV (AWS 1700/2100) in its frequency bands. Does that mean it might work with AT&T's 4G at some point?

  • billy

    Ok, with all those i just read, looks like at&t is taking over, so does that mean i wont b able to use my 4g phone threw at&t when this does happen? Also, im getting the lg g2x this week, and will i b able to still have 4g hspa+ speed out here in roaming?

  • john

    Galaxy Nexus Pentaband. These things have been available all over the world for years. US citizens suffer under corporate bondage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Wayne-Carroll/1643966852 John Wayne Carroll

     So I have ONE question.

    • Brazilian Guy

      I went to a T-Mobile store yesterday and that's exactly whats going to happen by the end of October. Good news for us ;-)

  • David Fraiser

    Good God...for a site devoted to Android, ya know...a mobile phone...you'd think this site would be MOBILE FRIENDLY. You guys seem to think your WordPress "mobile version" is good enough.

    Guess what? It's not.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Thanks for stopping by. We're working on a full responsive redesign with tablet and mobile interfaces. It should arrive in the next few months.

  • Sarah

    I can't believe T-Mobile does not have an Android friendly website either.