T-Mobile’s LTE network spotted hiding in the urban jungles of NYC

T-Mobile USA is still several months away from officially launching its new LTE network, but it’s actively testing the new technology in the wild. A GigaOM reader came across the network in New York City and mapped out a three-by-five-block nugget of 4G coverage in Astoria, Queens, which you can see on the website.

T-Mobile's LTE test in Queens mapped in purple
T-Mobile’s LTE test in Queens mapped in purple

The reader, Milan Milanovi?, said that T-Mobile appears to be still deep in testing so the network is nowhere near ready for the kind of soft launch we saw for its HSPA+ network in the PCS-1900 MHz last year. Before T-Mobile officially launched that network, customers all over the country were connecting to it, and T-Mobile actively encouraged iPhone(s aapl) owners in San Francisco to take the reconfigured HSPA+ service for a spin during Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference.

T-Mo LTE screenshotMilanovi? said that the Astoria cells are actually invisible to most phones even if they support LTE at the proper band. He had to force his way onto the network by setting his Nexus 4 (which unofficially supports LTE in T-Mo’s 4G airwaves) to LTE-only mode and manually scan for a network connection. Milanovi? encountered a 5 MHz-by-5 MHz link in the 1700 MHz/2100 MHz frequencies, but he was allocated only half of the 37 Mbps of bandwidth that the network could theoretically support.

The network was also awfully shy once discovered. Whenever Milanovi? got a connection, the network would wait between five and 20 minutes to boot him off. Clearly T-Mobile isn’t quite at the point where it’s encouraging customers to try out its new 4G systems.

T-Mobile has already completed construction of its LTE sites in Las Vegas and Kansas City, and we’ve even started hearing reports of LTE sightings out of KC. This is the first activity we’ve heard of in NYC, though. For the most part, the new network has remained underground.

LTE test screenshots courtesy of Milan Milanovi?