T-Mobile USA have been working hard to secure low frequency spectrum and according to filings with the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, the Uncarrier has struck several deals with businesses including BEK Communications Cooperative and Vulcan Wireless. These deals are to shore up local coverage in areas of North Dakota, West Virgina, Texas and Oregon, to name just a few. By the end of September, T-Mobile USA owned or had agreements to cover around 55% of the US population with 700 MHz spectrum, which will be key to their LTE strategy going forward. The carrier has already launched the first of its 700 MHz-capable handsets, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with the promise of more to follow as 2014 closes and 2015 starts.
To remind readers about the importance of low frequency spectrum, the lower the frequency, the better the penetration and range of individual masts. Low frequency radio waves have a slower theoretical maximum data transfer speed but penetrate solid objects much better. Higher frequency radio waves allow a faster data throughput but do not penetrate buildings so well and have a shorter range, so require greater investment from the carrier as more masts are required to cover the same population. The FCC’s recent auction of mid-range spectrum sits between the high speed, low penetration, higher frequencies and the lower frequency bandwidth. Carriers have a number of different strategies to provide solid coverage across the United States of America but the idea of using the lower frequency spectrum to provide a LTE foundation and build in areas of medium and higher frequency spectrum where additional network capacity is required.
One of the criticisms leveled at T-Mobile USA is that their network is somewhat weaker than AT&T and Verizon Wireless and it’s no surprise that America’s biggest two networks have considerable bandwidth available at the lower end of the spectrum table. T-Mobile understand that if they were ever able to compete on a level playing field with the two bigger carriers, this would give them an edge in many markets because their tariffs are more competitive. Today’s news certainly points them in the right direction. But what do our readers think? With stronger low frequency coverage (and it’s only going to improve as T-Mobile are still working on improving coverage) would you be prepared to give the Uncarrier your business?