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Will T-Mobile MVNOs get LTE access?

They’re behind the other three carriers, but this year T-Mobile USA will begin offering services on its LTE network. This is a big step for the country’s No. 4 wireless carrier. They’ve held their own with HSDPA+ for a while now, but the transition to LTE is crucial at this point. At the same time, it seems that they will take a page from Verizon’s book and try to move non-LTE customers to a prepaid brand. GoSmart Mobile will go nationwide this month, and it will compete in the market for 3G smartphones and service. That would seem to leave LTE for T-Mobile postpaid customers, though a recent report indicates perhaps a different plan.

Last week FierceWireless’s Phil Goldstein spoke to executives from T-Mobile MVNOs Solavei and Ready SIM. Both said they will offer LTE services once T-Mobile makes them available. T-Mobile itself hasn’t confirmed this, though, saying that they have not “made any commitments to MVNO partners” with regards to LTE access.

It appears, though, that at least one MVNO thinks that it is entitled to resell LTE services once T-Mobile makes them available. “…as a T-Mobile MVNO, we get access to all network enhancements and upgrades, [and] this means that mean LTE is available we will offer it as well simply because it’s there,” said Emir Aboulhosn, senior VP of business development at REady SIM. That’s an interesting take, though it’s unclear whether access to such upgrades as LTE is part of their MVNO agreement with T-Mobile.

If T-Mobile is trying to use LTE to entice postpaid customers while moving prepaid customers to a separate brand, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll readily allow MVNOs to offer LTE services. Then again, T-Mobile stands to make a decent amount of money in that reselling capacity; the MVNO undertakes all the marketing and customer acquisition costs. We will learn more, it seems, when T-Mobile launches its LTE network, which it expects to cover 100 million people by the middle of this year.