Low-frequency LTE spectrum is in demand all over the world. Low-frequency signals penetrate into buildings much better than high-frequency signals and have a greater effective range. This means that a given carrier can provide coverage for a given population using fewer masts, especially in an urban environment; or it means that a carrier can provide a higher speed service for greater numbers of customers. Low-frequency signal does have the disadvantage that the theoretical data speeds are lower than high-frequency spectrum and this is why many carriers are pairing up their low spectrum with middle or higher frequency spectrum. High frequency LTE spectrum is ideal when used to provide high-speed connectivity in busy, congested areas, such as city centers, shopping malls and airports.
In the United States of America, the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, control close to two thirds of the low-frequency spectrum but we've seen evidence that T-Mobile, especially, is catching up. Back in April, T-Mobile bought a chunk of 700 MHz spectrum from Verizon and we know that the uncarrier has been working hard to roll out the low spectrum frequency. We know from T-Mobile's comments in the past that it is their intention to provide 20 MHz by 20 MHz spectrum for customers in urban areas; the wider the spectrum, the larger the data pipe and so the higher the capacity. Today's news, that T-Mobile appear to have enabled a 5 MHz by 5 MHz LTE Band 12 (700 MHz) spectrum in Michigan city area, is still some way short of that 20 MHz by 20 MHz promise, but it's a start! Previously, T-Mobile did not have any coverage at the 700 MHz point. This coincides with other reports that 700 MHz LTE coverage has been spotted by T-Mobile USA users at Long Island and Houston.
The screenshot shows a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in service mode having run a speed test. We don't know if this speed test was conducted over the 700 MHz frequency as there is no way to tell. If it was, there likely were not many users on the same frequency but we don't know at what state T-Mobile were running their network: when testing, carriers tend to turn the speed and signal strength down. We'll need to wait a few months for more T-Mobile USA devices supporting this frequency to be connected. What we do know is that the 700 MHz spectrum is very important to T-Mobile. If T-Mobile's low spectrum provides the carrier with a broad blanket of coverage across the country and into towns and cities, this is a very good move indeed. But over to our readers: do you use T-Mobile USA? Do you know if your device supports LTE Band 12? Would today's news help you move to T-Mobile at your next upgrade? Let us know in the comments below.