After Deutsche Telekom announced they would sell T-Mobile USA to AT&T Wireless for $39 Billion, I wrote that at least T-Mobile customers would be able to keep their phones as the transition occurs and it turns out that will at least partially be the case. According to various reports AT&T plans to spend more than $8 billion to convert T-Mobile’s entire network of 3G towers to 4G, rendering T-Mobile customers phones useless, but that conversion will happen gradually, over the period of at least several years.
The upgrade will be a mandatory move for T-Mobile customers once their contract has run it’s course, which means buying another phone or leaving AT&T for another network, where again customers will be required to purchase a new phone since very few other GSM options are available throughout the U.S.
Here’s what Ralph de la Vega, AT&T’s head of wireless and consumer services said during an interview:
The spectrum they use for third-generation services, or 3G, will be re-purposed for 4G, which is faster. That would leave current T-Mobile phones without 3G. They would need to be replaced with phones that use AT&T’s 3G frequencies.”
He goes on to add:
“There’s nothing for them to worry about … it will be done over time, in a way that’s good for customers and good for AT&T.”
I’m sure a million more questions will be raised and answered over the coming months as the merger moves forward, but it’s good to know that most T-Mobile customers will not be overly inconvenienced by the move. Heck some may even be more than happy to pick up an iPhone once they have that option during their regular upgrade period.