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T-Mobile Pours Cold Water on Sprint's Spark

Dan Jones
4/30/2014

T-Mobile closed its 700MHz spectrum purchase Wednesday while trying to dampen Sprint's claims about its Spark LTE speeds.

Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile US Inc. , announced the completion of its $2.4 billion buyout of A-Band 700MHz spectrum from Verizon Wireless on the operator's blog. The low-band spectrum -- something T-Mobile hasn't had access to before -- will enable it to offer better in-building, suburban, and rural coverage starting at the end of this year. (See T-Mobile Spends $2.4B on Verizon Spectrum and T-Mobile: Going Bananas for Low-Band .)

Here's why Neville Ray believes that this is "fantastic news" for T-Mobile subscribers:

    As of today, T-Mobile has closed the deal we announced in January to acquire low-band 700 MHz A-Block spectrum. This will allow us to improve coverage and reliability for 158 million Americans in 9 of the top 10 and 21 of the top 30 metro areas across the nation with 4G LTE -- in addition to the nationwide LTE footprint we already have. Some of the major metro areas to be covered will include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Washington D.C., and Detroit.

Ray claims that T-Mobile will be "wicked fast" in getting 700MHz equipment out to cell sites. "We anticipate customers will begin reaping the benefits as early as the end of this year." (See T-Mobile CTO: On the Road to Low-Band.)

The T-Mobile CTO also took aim at Sprint's Spark LTE upgrade, which is in 24 US markets so far and which the company says offers peak download speeds of around 60 Mbit/s:

    We've already enhanced our LTE by deploying 10+10 MHz 4G LTE in 43 of the top 50 metro areas, delivering download speeds up to 72 Mbps. Yesterday, we heard that the Sprint Spark network will eventually deliver 60 Mbps. What's more, last November, we began deployments of Wideband LTE with 15+15 MHz and 20+20 MHz. What that means is that we're building 4G LTE super-highways that are incredibly fast and wide open -- and where you can experience download speeds up to 147 Mbps.

Of course, as we've seen many times before, peak speeds when the networks aren't busy can be quite different from when the networks are loaded down with users. The proof in the pudding will be the performance available on fully loaded networks when these upgrades are done. (See Sprint: LTE TDD Speed Boost Coming Soon and Fanning Sprint's Spark in NYC.)

You can read Ray's full blog here.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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briandnewby
briandnewby
5/2/2014 | 1:13:45 PM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
Maybe, as long as Legare doesn't eventually go all Wild Oats/Whole Foods in social media.

Like I said, I admire the approach but maybe it's the 9 years in government after the 20 years in telecom in me, but hopefully he has a trusted advisor who will tamp him down if he becomes too in love with his Twitter persona.
DanJones
DanJones
5/2/2014 | 11:07:14 AM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
I suspect that it is what was needed to get T-Mobile into the public eye. The speed of the LTE rollout is the actual plank that Legere's scrapy roster CEO persona rests on, they've essentially caught (and, especially in cities, surpassed) Sprint with some of the LTE deployment even though Sprint had a year's head-start, that's good going.

I also suspect that Sprint will be fighting back more with Saw as CNO.
briandnewby
briandnewby
5/2/2014 | 10:43:42 AM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
I was just adding snark to snark:  http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2014/04/04/t-mobile-s-legere-chides-sprint-s-parry-to.html

I teach an MBA ethics class and plan to discuss his tweeting in the next session, actually.  I'm interested in what the youngsters thing.  It's not unethical, but I'm not sure to admire his brashness or feel like someone ought to counsel him before he hurts himself.
DanJones
DanJones
5/1/2014 | 5:15:21 PM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
He's said it in public before.
briandnewby
briandnewby
5/1/2014 | 4:12:37 PM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
"a pile of spectrum waiting to be turned into a capability?"

 

That's a sound byte that Legere could probably tweet.
briandnewby
briandnewby
5/1/2014 | 4:10:48 PM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
Sprint executives would never want to believe another company has a more dominant brand.  In the case of T-Mobile, I think Sprint's brand is higher valued.

On the spectrum quest, which I agree a merger would result in Sprint having it anyway--that was one of the thoughts that came into play with the Nextel acquisition.

That acquisition was about as failed as something like that could be, but most of the players involved are gone.  I remember one of the times Nextel outbid Sprint for spectrum (1998ish), but I don't know what came of that spectrum when the two companies combined.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
5/1/2014 | 4:06:41 PM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
What'd Legere call Sprint, "a pile of spectrum waiting to be turned into a capability?"
Phil_Britt
Phil_Britt
5/1/2014 | 11:38:50 AM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
You're right, T-Mobile might be the dominant partner -- if Softbank, the deep pocket and likely driver of any merger -- feels T-Mobile has the dominant brand. I know people with each service, right now T-Mobile is certainly generating more press, but which is the stronger brand and will be the best for customer retention/acquisition in the future is certainly a matter for debate.
DanJones
DanJones
5/1/2014 | 11:32:33 AM
Re: Spectrum is Needed, But...
You're assuming Sprint would end up the dominant partner? I'm not so sure those scales aren't tipping in the other direction...
Phil_Britt
Phil_Britt
5/1/2014 | 11:27:50 AM
Spectrum is Needed, But...
Though T-Mobile won this spectrum battle, the more the company cuts prices to acquire customers, the more something is going to have to give -- service, going back to more profitable pricing, or a merger with Sprint. If it's the last of those, Sprint will wind up with the spectrum anyway.
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