Software update enables LTE support on T-Mobile’s Galaxy Note 2. Nexus 4 next?

When T-Mobile officially lights up its nationwide LTE network later this month, it won’t just be new phones that can use it. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2, which T-Mobile started selling to customers back in October, will boast fast LTE mobile broadband speeds too. How can that be? Early looks at the phone showed inactive LTE radio hardware inside and now T-Mobile is flipping the switch with a software update.
On Monday, the network operator published a support document stating that it is now pushing the update over the air to Galaxy Note 2 handsets. If a customer prefers, they can get the update with a PC by using the Samsung Kies program. The new software brings the 5.5-inch smartphone up to Android 4.1.2(s goog) and also enables support for the carrier’s LTE network.
T-Mobile is currently in the midst of an aggressive LTE rollout. While rivals Verizon(s vz)(s vod) and AT&T (s t) started LTE network upgrades over the past few years, T-Mobile instead built up its HSPA+ capabilities. While that sounds like a poor strategy, it may yet pay off. In areas without T-Mobile LTE coverage, most devices would then fall back to HSPA+ 42 service, which can be nearly as fast as LTE, depending on location.
Google Nexus 4Regardless, T-Mobile is moving quickly to enable LTE service now, having started the effort within the past year. The company expects that its LTE infrastructure will provide service “in the vast majority of the top 50 markets and 20 MHz service in 75 percent of the top 25 markets.” New York City is surely among the first of the new LTE markets — joining Las Vegas and Kansas City — given that an eagle-eyed GigaOm reader accessed T-Mobile’s LTE network this past weekend there.
Maybe there’s LTE hope for the Nexus 4 after all? That device also supports LTE on the 1700 MHz band, which just happens to be what T-Mobile is using for fast mobile broadband as it moves HSPA+ service to a different frequency.