T-Mobile Announces AWS-band iPhone 5–Hope for WIND Mobile, Mobilicity? [Update]

T mobile logo

For Canadians that travel extensively to the USA, you’re probably familiar with T-Mobile. Their pay as you go options are popular with unlocked iPhone owners (Roam Mobility also uses their network), and increasingly so as their 4G HSPA+ availability continues to expand across major U.S. cities (versus their existing 1700Mhz 3G HSPA+ network, which offered 2G speeds to iPhone owners; this network is being transitioned to faster 4G LTE).

Today, the company finally announced it was receiving the coveted iPhone on April 12th, six long years after Apple’s original smartphone launched in 2007. What makes this launch unique is the company will receive its own version of the iPhone 5 to accommodate the network’s AWS LTE spectrum bands, plus support HD Voice, something not yet supported by other U.S. carriers (Rogers, TELUS and Bell have supported HD Voice for a while now).

“This is an important day for people who love their iPhone but can’t stand the pain other carriers put them through to own one,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile USA. “We feel their pain. I’ve felt the pain. So we’re rewriting the rules of wireless to provide a radically simple, affordable iPhone 5 experience — on an extremely powerful network.”

T-Mobile also introduced a new pricing plan without contracts for the iPhone, which is an industry first. Using a 16GB iPhone 5 for example, customers will buy devices outright. They will pay $99 up front, then $20 per month afterwards for 24 months, for a total of $579 in the end (unlocked iPhone 5 units cost $649 US; in Canada it’s $699).

The company will also receive the older iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S in various markets. The former will be priced at $14.99 down, then $15 per month for 24 months ($374.99) and the latter at $69.99 down, then $20 per month for 24 months ($549.99 total). As for plans, T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan starts at $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and  500MB of 4G data, with an extra 2GB of data available for $10/month, or unlimited for $20/month.

Last December, Apple confirmed T-Mobile would carry its products this year and it has finally arrived. This AWS-band iPhone 5 will work on WIND Mobile and Mobilicity (and Videotron), but will be limited to slower 3G speeds.

According to the following hands-on photo via Engadget, the T-Mobile iPhone 5 shows model A1428 on the back, which is the GSM model for Canada and the USA:

t-mobile iphone 5

The bigger question–will these new wireless entrants ever get the chance to launch the iPhone on their networks (even if it was just the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S)? The lack of iPhone has been the achilles heel of these new networks, something the ‘Big 3’ have benefited greatly from.

Apple does mandate strict requirements for networks when it comes to the iPhone, so if anything AWS-LTE support would be required first, plus a sizeable customer base. With WIND Mobile rumoured up for sale, the company’s future remains up in the air. If the iPhone ever makes its way to our newer wireless entrants, it could be a wireless industry game changer.

Update: Engadget follows up to report Apple is factory-enabling AWS on these T-Mobile iPhone 5 units (which is the same GSM model used in Canada), something we won’t be able to do:

For those paying attention, that’s the same model number as AT&T sells today, but Apple’s enabling support of the AWS bands from the factory on the new guy — and sadly, Apple affirmed to us that it’s not something that can be enabled via a simple software update for A1428 iPhone units already in circulation. To say that another way, existing iPhone 5 owners on AT&T cannot simply apply a software patch to have AWS support added. You’ll need to buy a new phone next month.

Also, Apple will soon be phasing out existing A1428 models, and sell these new tweaked AWS-enabled phones instead, which will work on AT&T’s LTE network. Let us know if you’re going to buy an unlocked T-Mobile iPhone 5 from the USA. It should work on LTE networks here in Canada, plus AWS-3G on WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Videotron.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Matt

    Are we sure this is an AWS iPhone? I thought T-Mobile was launching a new network in select markets that would support the iPhone.

  • FragilityG4

    HD Voice is pretty sweet I must admit.

  • This T-Mobile iPhone will work on their AWS-LTE network and AWS-HSPA+ network. So it’s definitely an AWS-supported iPhone 5. Engadget’s hands-on revealed it’s the same iPhone 5 as we see in stores.

    So that means if someone buys an unlocked T-Mobile iPhone 5 from the Apple Store in the US, it should work here on AWS 3G networks.

  • pureip4

    Wow that’s great news! I’m actually tempted to sell my unlocked phone that I have with Virgin at the moment and go buy one of these just to switch to Wind. That’s right I don’t care if they’re up for sale, I don’t care that I don’t have LTE. I would be willing to take all this just to not continue giving money to Bell. I hate them THAT much. They’ve treated me that bad.

  • crosseyed_mofo

    wait, “Apple will soon be phasing out existing A1428 models, and sell these new tweaked AWS-enabled phones instead, which will work on AT&T’s LTE network. Let us know if you’re going to buy an unlocked T-Mobile iPhone 5 from the USA”

    if these models are being phased out then wont the aws enabled ones be available in canada as well?

  • Don’t know yet. This could be only in the USA market. But we will be able to buy unlocked from the USA.

  • crosseyed_mofo

    i know someone on the inside at videotron, and they have a tight relationship with tmobile, i have a feeling they may blow the door open for these updated models in canada, dont quote me tho

  • BREAKING: VIDEOTRON TO GET AWS IPHONE 5 ACCORDING TO SOURCES FAMILIAR WITH THE SITUATION

  • crosseyed_mofo

    bastard 🙂

  • Matt

    Now I want one!

  • Same here 🙂

  • gweed123

    I’m a bit confused here… Are all previously-sold iPhones not capable of using T-Mobile’s full spectrum, or just those sold in the US by AT&T?

    To phrase it in another way, if I unlock my Rogers iPhone 5, would I be able to get full access to T-Mobile’s network through Roam Mobility, or would I have to buy a newer version of the iPhone 5?

  • You need to buy the new T-Mobile iPhone 5.

  • gweed123

    That’s what I figured, just wanted to make sure, thanks! I would assume that the iPhone 5S would be configured for all of these networks from Day 1, much in the same way that the iPhone 4S supported both GSM and CDMA from Day 1 as well.

  • VanK

    I sincerely hope that T-Mobile would acquire Wind, and offer the AWS iPhone to the Canadian consumer. There’s a good synergy on both the technical and business front.
    With T-Mobile price plans and the newly announced iPhone 5, they can bring a real competition to the stagnant Canadian market.
    If anything, it will help bring the plans prices down!!

  • Question: in may if I got my iphone 5 replaced by the AppleCare+, do you think it’ll be aws enabled? I hope so. That would be great. Same model number so….

  • Probably not, as those T-Mobile units are available April 12th onwards. No idea if they will make their way into Canada once the old A1428 phases out.

  • sherds

    The unlocked iphones sold at Apple stores i would imagine will be the same as the ones sold in the usa from April 12 on (Apple tends to try to limit skus) .Don’t know if Wind etc have nano sims to sell or if you will have to cut one down

  • ward09

    Man, just as this AWS iPhone is announced, Wind’s future is up in the air. My guess is Rogers will acquire Wind and run it quickly into the ground.

  • So i am still a little foggy on whats happening.

    I have a iphone 5 locked to Fido. Can i use this phone on Winds Mobile network if they “upgrade” to LTE?

    If i go to T-Mobile in the US and buy a Iphone5 will it be unlocked? And will i be able to use it on Wind Mobile if i bring it back home?

  • Anyone with Sage-like advice please post here

  • Asovse1

    You won’t be able to use it on WIND without getting a new iPhone 5. In other words, if you got your iPhone 5 before this announcement, it won’t work.

    Regarding iPhone 5 lock, doesn’t Apple have them unlocked at manufacturing? As in, the iPhone 5 is a device marketed with being a global world phone without any sim lock whatsoever. This is definitely true if you buy it from the Apple Store, but if it’s untrue from buying it at Robelus, then this is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard regarding iPhones.

  • gharz

    I dont understand this… I was in US last feb 2013 and used my factory unlocked iphone 5 which i bought here in canada last january 11 and it worked with t-mobile. I thought t-mobile is using the same frequenzy with wind/mobilicity/videotron. A couple of days ago i cut my wind sim so it would fit into my phone and it doesnt connect to wind at all. All it can see are wind away networks. Any clue?

  • You were using T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G (3G) and EDGE network…their AWS LTE networks are new. The iPhone 5 has LTE. The iPhone 4S does not.