New iPhone 5 gives T-Mobile’s MVNOs a network boost, but still no LTE

Apple’s newly retooled iPhone 5 makes it easier not just for T-Mobile to deliver 3G service to the Apple aficionados among its customers, but also for its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners.

T-Mobile MVNO Solavei said on Wednesday it will fully support all of the HSPA+ radios in the new version of the iPhone 5. That means anywhere T-Mobile offers 3G service, Solavei will too. Previously all iPhones’ 3G capabilities were restricted to areas where T-Mobile had completed its ongoing network overhaul, which to date is about 50 cities. Solavei – which has adopted a multi-level marketing approach (think Amway) to distributing its service – is selling the unlocked iPhone 5 directly to customers for the steep price of $700 through its retail partner GSMNation. But unlocked versions of the device will work just fine with Solavei’s SIM cards.

Solavei, however, won’t get access to T-Mo’s latest and greatest 4G network though. The MVNO confirmed that none of its customers will be able to tap T-Mobile’s LTE network, no matter what phone they own. T-Mobile has only launched LTE in seven cities, and it appears to be keeping its new 4G service for itself for the time being. I would expect that change eventually though. Sprint, for instance, is already opening its new LTE network to its numerous MVNO partners.

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