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T-Mobile Says 600MHz Takes It Head-to-Head With 'Duopoly'

Dan Jones

T-Mobile is intending to cover 321 million Americans with its LTE network by year's end, as the operator gears up to start to deploy the 600MHz spectrum it recently won at auction.

Earlier in April, T-Mobile US Inc. put up nearly $8 billion to become the big winner in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's 600MHz low-band spectrum auction. CEO John Legere said on the operator's second-quarter earnings call that the company will start to deploy infrastructure supporting 600MHz by the end of the year. (See T-Mobile, Dish & Comcast Big Winners in $19.8B 600MHz Auction.)

The operator currently covers 314 million people with LTE.

Handsets with 600MHz support will be "coming by the holiday season," Legere said.

When asked on the call, CTO Neville Ray didn't specify which cities will be first to get 600MHz support but said that preparation work has already started. This could be a lengthy process, however, with the FCC indicating that it could take some analog TV broadcasters up to 39 months to vacate the 600MHz band.

This isn't the only LTE update underway. CTO Ray noted that T-Mobile has now deployed 15,000 small cells, with 25,000 more "under contract."

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

As Light Reading has previously reported, T-Mobile is also gearing up to add 5GHz-based LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) technology to its network. "We've started deployment, in a few locations across the US," says Ray. (See Unlicensed: It's What's Next for US Mobile Operators.)

Nonetheless, Legere and Ray stressed that 600MHz is crucial to T-Mobile's plans to take on Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) with nationwide LTE coverage. "We have more spectrum per customer than the duopoly [of AT&T and Verizon]," Legere crowed. "Fifty percent more than Verizon."

Legere even claimed that Verizon's LTE network had slowed "by 14%" after the operator switched to unlimited deals -- putting it behind AT&T -- while T-Mobile is up by "10%."

For the quarter ended March 31, T-Mobile added 1.1 million customers, giving it 72.6 million users in total: That makes it the third-largest mobile operator in the US.

Some 914,000 of these additions were "postpaid" subscribers on monthly contracts. In comparison, Verizon reported a loss of 307,000 retail postpaid connections -- those that pay for service on a monthly contract -- including 289,000 phone losses, for the quarter. (See Verizon Fixates on 'Future' Network, as It Loses Subs, Revenue.)

"We right now are the wireless company," Legere said on the call.

Finally, T-Mobile reported $9.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $8.7 billion in the same period last year. Net income for the quarter was up from $479 million in 2016 to $698 million in the first quarter of 2017.

The operator's shares were up 1.90% at $65.93 in after-hours trading on April 24.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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