T-Mobile Eyes 4G Growth & 5G Standards

T-Mobile is planning to increase its 4G footprint this year and the next, even as it anticipates real 5G standards arriving in 2019 or so.

T-Mobile's 4G network now covers 305 million people in the US. T-Mobile is expecting to add about 17% more coverage in the coming years, said CFO Braxton Carter this week.

"This will ramp over '16 and continue into '17," he said at the Deutsche Bank Telecom and Media analyst conference in Miami.

The carrier is also aiming to get more low-band coverage spectrum by bidding in the 600MHz spectrum auctions, which start later this month. There is a quiet period now in force ahead of the bidding, but T-Mobile has said that it could spend up to $10 billion to gain additional bandwidth.

T-Mobile has already worked out a deal with parent company, Deutsche Telekom, to help fund the auction. T-Mobile can sell DT $2 billion in senior notes. The operator can use the money to buy spectrum, refinance debt or for more general corporate purposes. (See TWC's Cooper Updates Cable’s Energy 2020 Program.)

CFO Carter meanwhile explained more about T-Mobile's 5G stance, saying it will wait for global standards in 2019/20 before pushing ahead with the new technology. This will allow the 5G ecosystem to develop and prevent it from having to rip out and replace any non-standard gear.

"We're certainly out there in trials of components of 5G," Carter said. (See T-Mobile to Test 5G With Nokia, Ericsson .)

Verizon, meanwhile, is pushing for 5G in 2017 because it needs new spectrum to be opened up as data traffic, driven by video, keeps increasing on its network. The T-Mobile CFO said he understood what was driving Big Red, but described the Verizon 5G technology as "non-standard." (See Verizon CEO: US Commercial 5G Starts in 2017.)

"It's something they have to do," Carter says.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

TV Monitor 3/15/2016 | 10:55:15 AM
Re: Different providers danielcawrey

But it is T-Mobile customers who are going for unlimited data plans vs Verizon which doesn't even have one.

It is the vendor allegiance that's driving each carrier's network evolution strategy. Verizon Wireless is no longer European-owned(Vodafone's 49% ownership of Verizon Wireless was instrumental in picking the LTE over Mobile WiMax during the 4G format war), so it is free to pick whichever vendor that best serves its interests which may not be European 5G. Whereas T-Mobile owned by Deutsche Telekom must still follow the vendor policy of its parent Deutsche Telekom, which inturn must adopt European 5G in order to ensure Europe-wide roaming.

Ditto for Sprint insisting on deploying Chinese 5G in the US, simply because its parent Softbank uses Chinese TD-LTE format for its network.

So by going with European 5G, T-Mobile is giving up on going multi-gigabit by 2020, since the European 5G is all about low-latency and Industrial IoT, and not about consumer bandwidth throughput.
danielcawrey 3/14/2016 | 3:47:20 PM
Different providers T-Mobile and Verizon have very different types of customers. This is why I think T-Mobile should focus on 4G while Verizon 5G. For Verizon, its customers are clamoring for more data, which 5G can provide.

For T-Mobile, its customers are using prepaid and are still acquiring smartphones – they will need more 4G, but not necessarily faster data. This two different strategies make sense. 
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