Will T-Mobile’s Late Entrance To LTE Party Help Them? In Short: No.

T-Mobile has long been a distant fourth place competitor in the U.S. cellar market. While their pricing and various contracts have often trounced the competition (rather easily I’d add), the spotty coverage and generally less speedy (until recently) network has caused more and more people to look at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon for their data-loving tasks. Complicating T-Mobile’s stigma of an “underdog” was illustrated by their resistance to pursue LTE and instead stick with constantly upgrading their (admittingly fast) HSPA+ network.

The latest generation of Qualcomm hardware, the new S4 processor(s) in particular, are the first to hit the market with integrated LTE. What this means is that instead of tacking LTE hardware onto a mobile phone and hoping for the best, hardware can now be smaller and more efficient. Gigaom says that by sitting out the first round of LTE warfare and skipping first-gen LTE hardware may have put T-Mobile behind initially, they won’t attract the same stigma of selling phones with terrible battery life and in turn add subscribers solely on the belief that they sell phones with better battery life.

While such a concept is nice to think about, it’s nothing more than a dream. It’s not going to happen. The way I see it is that any “benefit” T-Mobile will garner from entering the LTE race just when the hardware is getting really good will be a moot point. Other competitors are also planning to roll out devices with the same, more efficient hardware. The stigma that may be attached to LTE isn’t on the carriers, really, but the devices themselves and to some extent the technology as a whole — but not the carriers.

Sadly, T-Mobile’s position is to trod along with a tried and true, less expensive technology and upgrade the hell out of it, and then once something has been proven/advances to a certain level, adopt it. It’s not a particularly bad plan. If done right it’s cost effective. Though, the various rumors of buyouts over the last few years (and one failed merger with AT&T) have proven that attacking the value end of the market as T-Mobile has simply hasn’t paid off for them very well.

In 2 years if T-Mobile hasn’t folded or been acquired by some other entity we’ll still be calling them the “nation’s 4th largest carrier” (and likely the 4th largest carrier still with money problems).