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Originally published October 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 6, 2006 at 6:16 PM

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T-Mobile says it's catching high-speed wave

T-Mobile USA, the nation's fourth largest wireless carrier, disclosed plans today aimed at closing the gap with its larger competitors.

Seattle Times technology reporter

NEW YORK — T-Mobile USA, the nation's fourth largest wireless carrier, disclosed plans today aimed at closing the gap with its larger competitors.

At a news conference in New York with parent company Deutsche Telekom, the Bellevue-based company detailed how it expects to proceed after spending close to $4 billion recently for rights to airwaves in a government auction.

Top executives from both companies unveiled T-Mobile's approach to using the so-called spectrum purchases to roll out high-speed broadband networks called 3G, which will allow subscribers to connect to the Internet and online data services at DSL-like speeds.

T-Mobile also defended its position as the last nationwide carrier in the U.S. – after Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel — to start deploying 3G. The network build-out was not possible until it purchased more spectrum.

The two companies also outlined how critical T-Mobile USA is critical to the larger Deutsche Telekom organization.

"We are aiming to maximize revenue market share in the U.S. and make T-Mobile USA the largest single company within the [the T-Mobile International] group," Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Kai-Uwe Ricke said.

During the recent auction, T-Mobile USA acquired 120 licenses in a number of the country's largest cities, allowing it to double its holdings.

The 3G rollout is scheduled to start in the current quarter, and most of the work is set to be completed in 2007 and 2008. T-Mobile USA said it will budget around $2.7 billion for this work from 2006 to 2009.

The German company said it is making the investment in the U.S. because of the growth it is predicting here.

In the U.S., 73 percent of people have cellphones, a considerably lower percentage than in most Western European markets. It also said voice traffic in the U.S. market is expected to grow two or threefold by 2015, as more people drop their landlines for cellphones.

T-Mobile USA has always been a strong performer in the broader wireless group for Deutsche Telekom.

In the first half of 2006, the company contributed $8.4 billion, or about 22 percent of the of its parent's mobile communications segment.

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Also at the news conference, T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson touted tout the company's customer service track record and its ability to compete against the its bigger competitiors.

T-Mobile USA is the only U.S. carrier who has ranked strongly in the J.D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction awards for four periods in a row.

He also outlined why, even with its slower competitive start, T-Mobile is finding this a better time to build a 3G network – prices have come down and consumers are ready to start accessing the Internet, e-mail and other applications on a phone.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

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