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T-Mobile Execs Plan LTE-Powered Revival

Sarah Thomas

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- T-Mobile US Inc. has a two-pronged challenge on its hands -- and it's a doozy.

On the one hand, it has to build out Long Term Evolution (LTE), vacating its 2G customers from refarmable spectrum in the process, by 2013. And, on the other, it has to convince consumers the network is worth it, even without AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). (See T-Mobile Will Launch LTE in 2013.)

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray and SVP of Handset Marketing Andrew Sherrard are two of the execs tackling both sides of this challenge. Light Reading Mobile caught up with the Magenta men in Barcelona at MWC. Sherrard shares the carrier's marketing missives, including why going from FauxG to 4G doesn't bother it, in the following interview:

In an interview with LR Mobile at his other job as 4G Americas ' chairman, Ray said that T-Mobile will spend 2012 modernizing its network for LTE, including upgrading its radio infrastructure, core and backhaul and refarming its GSM network for LTE, but he insists it's not that difficult a task. (See T-Mobile's Race to Faster 4G.)

"It's harder for folks to go from 3G to LTE and upgrade all the backhaul, but, for us, it's just updating our equipment," he said, giving a nod to T-Mobile's high-speed packet access-plus (HSPA+) network that's already deployed. "Most of the work will be done over the next two years."

The limiting factor for the fourth-largest U.S. carrier will be how quickly its customers vacate the network. Today, 90 percent of T-Mobile data traffic and half of its voice traffic is already carried on its AWS spectrum, but the remaining 10 percent occupy its 2G PCS bands.

Sherrard said it will begin refarming voice-only phones first to clear the PCS spectrum, as well as stop selling 2G phones. The carrier will also reportedly go straight from 42Mbit/s HSPA+ to LTE, rather than build out 84Mbit/s HSPA+ as previously planned. Nowadays, it's all 4G to T-Mobile anyway.

"T-Mobile has no hesitancy calling our network 4G, when it's comparable to an LTE 4G network," Ray said of the carrier's HSPA+ network. "Our opportunity now is to enhance that experience with LTE to make it better."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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