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T-Mobile Repurposes 2G to Get an LTE Edge

Sarah Thomas

T-Mobile is celebrating the one-year anniversary of beginning its 4G LTE rollout with an ambitious plan to repurpose half of its 2G EDGE network this year and complete the other half by mid-2015.

Those customers in slow EDGE markets should start noticing faster speeds on their handsets in the coming months. T-Mobile US Inc. says it will also begin deploying LTE in the 700MHz A-block spectrum it is in the process of acquiring from Verizon Wireless . (See T-Mobile: Going Bananas for Low-Band and T-Mobile Spends $2.4B on Verizon Spectrum .)

T-Mobile's LTE network currently covers 210 million potential customers across 273 markets in the US. It plans to reach 230 million people by mid-year and 250 million by the end of the year.

The self-proclaimed "Uncarrier" also said Thursday that it is launching a new campaign to combat Verizon's "competitive claims" and has ordered a cease and desist against the carrier and its map ads that depict the relative footprint of Verizon and T-Mobile. CEO John Legere said in a statement that the ads "massively understate our coverage and don't begin to represent the actual customer experience on T-Mobile's network."

Why this matters
Even while winning customers over with its pricing shake-ups, T-Mobile has had a hard time shaking the reputation of having a shoddy 2G network outside of city limits. That said, the carrier has turned up most of its LTE network in just six months, moving at an unprecedented speed for the US wireless market. Transitioning those stuck on EDGE to the faster network will be an important step in its network evolution.

It is narrowing the gap on its larger rivals Verizon and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and is racing number-three operator and rumored merger partner Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) on market counts. Sprint currently claims 340 markets.

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Fabian Cortez
Fabian Cortez,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/4/2014 | 2:33:04 PM

From the article:

"Those customers in slow EDGE markets should start noticing faster speeds on their handsets in the coming months."

How? The GSM/GPRS/EDGE/"2G" network is over the PCS (1900MHz) band. The only phone that T-Mobile sells that supports LTE over PCS is the Galaxy S 5. And that's not out yet.

While the AWS LTE upgrades came with PCS UMTS/HSPA+/"3G", a lot of these GSM/GPRS/EDGE/"2G"-only markets do not have enough spectrum for PCS UMTS/HSPA+/"3G" and PCS LTE.

The good thing about this is that GSM/GPRS/EDGE/"2G" will virtually be a thing of the past, Sprint already uses PCS for LTE (handset diversity), and AT&T will be refarming their PCS [once again] for LTE (more devices to choose from).


"ambitious plan"

What's so ambituous about it? They already proved that they have the capability of meeting and exceeding their goals. Proof: the recent refarm and LTE rollout. It took Verizon wireless 2 years to cover what T-Mobile covered in 1 year with LTE.

And markets don't necessailry count when POPs are involved. POP for POP, Sprint and T-Mobile are close. In fact, as of March 13 of 2014, Sprint covered 200 million POPs while T-Mobile covered 210 million POPs.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/13/2014 | 6:07:47 PM
Re: T-Mobile hold outs

Coverage is T-Mobile's Achilles' heel. They seem to have great technology, compelling plans, and a winning marketing profile. But if the consumer can't get a signal, none of that does any good.

User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 4:21:47 PM
Re: T-Mobile hold outs
I tried transferring to them from AT&T but indoors sucked so I stayed with AT&T, but oviosuly the burbs are important from a cost perspective of coverage per cell site ratio. This makes me wonder if T-Mobile acquired Nextel - with all the trouble it would have caused - would it have been better off?...

Agreed on channel 51's eventual expiration
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 4:17:46 PM
Re: T-Mobile hold outs
I don't imagine the channel 51 broadcasts willl be around forever though. T-Mob is pretty good in the city. They need the 700 for the 'burbs.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 4:09:50 PM
Re: T-Mobile hold outs
From a poor coverage perspective the 700MHz A-Block deployment will be far more important as it solves indoors. Unfortunately NYC won't benefit due to channel 51 interference.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 12:33:30 PM
T-Mobile hold outs
As T-Mobile has announced all its pricing and marketing shake-ups, I've seen a number of comments like, "I wish I could switch, but the coverage is just too terrible in my area." I wonder if this upgrade will convince those people in 2G areas to make the switch now. Advertising the upgrade as its available will be important for T-Mo.
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