Yesterday, at T-Mobile’s latest “uncarrier” event, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Neville Ray indicated in no uncertain terms, that one of T-Mobile’s “aspirations” is to roll out LTE in all of its 700 MHz A Block spectrum by the end of 2015. And while he said that “We are deploying it furiously,” he also acknowledged that it is unlikely they will actually be able to have it all deployed by year’s end. T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere and Ray indicated that they now have about 270 million POPs (number of users) with LTE and their mid-year target is 280 million – this is up from 265 million POPs in 2014.
T-Mobile purchased most of its 700 MHz spectrum in a deal with Verizon Wireless last year for $2.4 billion and has started to spread it around, noting that T-Mobile now covers about 60-percent of the US population and 70-percent of their existing customers with the 700 MHz spectrum. The spectrum covers 24 of the top 30 market areas in the US and covers nine of the top ten market areas. Covered so far are Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis and Washington, DC. Markets covered by the coveted 700 MHz spectrum are seeing “huge improvements” with coverage inside the buildings, parking garages and “dramatic” expansion in the rural areas.
One item that is slowing down the process of expansion of the 700 MHz rollouts is interference with Channel 51 TV broadcasts. Before T-Mobile can use their spectrum, the interference issues must be resolved…a big problem in an area such as New York. T-Mobile is entering into agreements with the broadcasters to find them new frequencies or to operate concurrently, which they have done in 10 markets that cover 41 million POPs. T-Mobile stressed that about 75-percent of the population is “free and clear and ready to be deployed or will be ready for deployment in the first half of 2015.” Ray said, “Every month that goes by we’re adding more and more markets. We’ve had great opportunity to coexist with Channel 51 incumbents and we’re going to keep driving very hard.”
This expansion is a major goal for T-Mobile as they scratch and claw their way to join Verizon and AT&T at that 300 million mark of POPs covered with LTE. Sprint is currently at 270 million POPs cover with its LTE network. While T-Mobile can offer all of the great pricing and “uncarrier” plans they want, giving the best coverage is the most important aspect of a great network. It will increase customer satisfaction and lower the churn rate and really allow T-Mobile to be the best “uncarrier” around.