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T-Mobile launching high-speed service in Kansas City

Updated: 2013-03-27T04:26:31Z

By STEVE ROSEN

The Kansas City Star

T-Mobile USA, after delays caused by competition and technology, is firing up its latest high-speed data network in Kansas City and six other cities nationwide.

The announcement Tuesday means that all four major wireless carriers, including Overland Park-based Sprint, will be offering so-called LTE technology in the Kansas City market. The company said the LTE service will blanket much of the Kansas City area on both sides of the state line.

Besides Kansas City, T-Mobile flipped the “on” switch Tuesday to its high speed network in Baltimore, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, Calif., and Washington. Unofficially, the network is also active in spots around New York.

By midyear, T-Mobile expects its LTE coverage area to reach 100 million people.

T-Mobile is the last of the four major carriers to launch an LTE network, but already has a relatively fast “4G” network. It’s been hamstrung by a lack of space on the airwaves, but gained some room last year from AT&T as part of the compensation for a failed buyout attempt.

T-Mobile made the announcement in New York at the same time it said it would start offering the iPhone 5 on April 12. T-Mobile, the fourth-largest of the national U.S. phone companies, has been losing customers to the bigger companies, which all sell the iPhone. The iPhone 5 can access the LTE network for faster data downloads.

“This is a big deal for us,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at the event in New York.

The company is charging $100 up front for the iPhone 5, then $20 a month for two years. That’s on top of service fees for voice, text and data that start at $50 per month. The total monthly cost starts at $70, a substantial discount to prices offered by bigger companies.

T-Mobile’s network has, until recently, not been able to offer high-speed data service to iPhones. It’s now able to deliver high-speed data to iPhones in some cities, and it has lured over 2.1 million off-contract AT&T iPhones, executives said Tuesday.

T-Mobile also said it would start selling the Samsung Galaxy S 4 on or around May 1. That’s the successor to the Galaxy S III, which has been the chief competitor to the iPhone.

On Monday, T-Mobile acknowledged plans to ditch its more than 20 conventional contract-based plans in favor of selling phones on an installment basis. It’s separating the cost of the phone from the service, and when a phone is paid off, usually after two years, the monthly fee for the phone disappears from the billing statement.

Under T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan, customers will be asked how much high-speed 4G data they want, and how many lines they need. According to the company, customers start with a base rate of $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and Web plus 500 megabits of 4G data.

T-Mobile is a unit of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG, which has agreed to merge it with No. 5 carrier MetroPCS Communications Inc. That deal faces opposition from shareholders of MetroPCS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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