Just months after paying nearly $8 billion for low-band spectrum during a historic Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction, T-Mobile is beginning to put its acquisition to use by deploying a 600 MHz LTE network site in Cheyenne, Wyoming -- the first of many 600 MHz LTE network sites planned for the U.S.
Coming on the heels of recent speed tests that put T-Mobile ahead of Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, it's also the company's latest potential threat to competing mobile service providers.
T-Mobile said it will expand its 600 MHz LTE network, "the very first in the world," with additional sites across rural and underserved parts of the U.S. by the end of the year. Those plans would expand the company's LTE coverage from 315 million people today to 321 million, the company said.
By deploying its first 600 MHz LTE site so soon after the April FCC auction, "T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process," Neville Ray, the company's chief technology officer, said yesterday in a statement. The new network will also help pave the way for its plans to roll out nationwide next-generation 5G services by 2020, according to the company.
Phone for New Spectrum by Q4
"Wyoming is just the beginning!" T-Mobile CEO John Legere said yesterday on Twitter. Ray joined in with a tweet showing him and Braxton Carter, T-Mobile's chief financial officer, on horseback: "@TMobile rode into Cheyenne with 600MHz & we're riding into several other towns this year."
T-Mobile far outspent its wireless competitors in April's FCC auction of low-band airwaves that had been voluntarily relinquished by U.S. television broadcasters. Aimed at reallocating redundant TV spectrum to ease congestion in modern wireless networks, the auction saw T-Mobile walk away with 45 percent of the offerings. AT&T, by comparison, bought $910 million worth of spectrum, while Sprint and Verizon didn't participate.
Since then, T-Mobile said it has been working with the FCC, broadcasters, mobile processor manufacturers and mobile device makers to "clear the spectrum in record time" and pave the way for 600 MHz-ready phones. New chips have already been rolled out by Nokia and Qualcomm, and "both Samsung and LG plan to launch phones that tap into this new spectrum in the fourth quarter of this year," according to T-Mobile.
"We knew this spectrum would be key for covering wide areas, providing bandwidth in hard-to-reach places, augmenting capacity and improving data speeds, so we began testing and readying 600 MHz network infrastructure equipment and software long before the incentive auction was over," Nokia's president and chief executive officer, Rajeev Suri, said in a statement.
Recent Speed Tests Show T-Mobile in Lead
Earlier this month, wireless coverage mapping company OpenSignal reported that T-Mobile had surpassed Verizon and AT&T in 4G and overall mobile network speeds. OpenSignal attributed that in part to a "new deluge of data demand" on Verizon's and AT&T's networks after those companies brought back unlimited data offerings for customers in February.
"[T]he impact on their mobile data services was immediate," OpenSignal said in its "State of Mobile Networks: USA" report for August. "Our measurements show that Verizon and AT&T's 4G speeds and overall speeds have fallen as a result of that new deluge of data demand on their networks."
The OpenSignal report found that neither T-Mobile nor Sprint, both of which offer unlimited data plans, had the same decline in speeds. OpenSignal said T-Mobile came out on top as the fastest service provider, with average LTE download speeds of 17.5 Mbps and overall speeds of 16.1 Mbps.
T-Mobile said it currently owns around 31 MHz of 600 MHz licenses, adding that such low-band spectrum "reaches twice as far and is four times better in buildings than mid-band."
Other locations set to see T-Mobile 600 MHz deployments this year include Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.