T-Mobile's Ambitious LTE Deployment



It is fun to go back and review how things have changed over the years. Lets take a look at T-Mobile my carrier of choice due to their focus on improving the customer experience.

Back in 2012 they had a major problem. They were losing customers and had a failed merger with AT&T. They were now in a rough spot with everyone wanting LTE and T-Mobile had none. In comes John Legere in fall of 2012 with big plans for the carrier to bring LTE to the carrier, get the iPhone and do things that other carriers won't.

Below is a chart for T-Mobile refarming plan. Since they didn't have any open spectrum to deploy LTE to like Verizon or AT&T from the 700Mhz Auction, they needed to find space in their current spectrum. AWS was the clear best choice for deployment which currently housed their HSPA+ network. After this rollout was complete it would get LTE onto all the current AWS towers along with the current HSPA+. 

By the end of 2013 T-Mobile had a decent LTE footprint but it was far behind AT&T and Verizon. As soon as you left the urban area, thus leaving AWS coverage, you hit the PCS network, which for most areas was still Edge. In March of 2014, it was announced that by end of 2015, all Edge towers would be converted to LTE which would increase there LTE footprint even more. This was great, but still didn't solve the biggest issue of T-Mobiles, lack of rural coverage and poor reception in buildings.

T-Mobile knew this and sought to solve this by getting some low band spectrum. The only option there would be to get some of the 700Mhz spectrum. Block A was what they went after and they made a purchase of the licenses Verizon had which covered a lot of key areas like most of California, Southern Michigan, Central Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, some of Missouri and much of the east coast from Maryland up to New York.
In July 2014, T-Mobile took ownership of the spectrum from Verizon. They then started to build out on the new network in a few major cities that the new spectrum now covered. This helped fill in the gaps of coverage and initially went live in Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and Washington DC. This was within 6 months after they took ownership of the spectrum from Verizon.

Before the end of 2014, they also were able to pick up some other Block A licenses the biggest of which being licenses Actel, which they picked up from AT&T. This gave T-Mobile a much larger presence in the low band 700Mhz Block A spectrum by adding Arkansas, Louisiana and the rest of Lower Peninsula of Michigan along with the Eastern UP along with the rest of Colorado.

At the end of 2014, T-Mobile is known for having the fasted network, but still lacking in rural coverage but 2015 has huge potential for them. Now with low band spectrum, they can extend into rural areas at a much lower cost in the areas that they have licenses for and once they complete the Edge to LTE upgrade, their LTE network will look a lot better.

In February, T-Mobile gave an update to show what their planned LTE coverage will be by the end of 2015 and it looks very impressive. The big question is will they be able to meet this highly ambitious goal.
This layout shows many new areas with LTE coverage where currently T-Mobile has no coverage. One of those areas is Michigan. Currently T-Mobile only covers they very south around the main cities and highways. This map shows them growing into the northern parts of lower Michigan and into the Upper Peninsula. 

The midwest has plenty of growth to be seen as well through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Florida appears to be a solid chunk of LTE along with the east coast.

This maps you may notice looks a lot like what Verizon's totes for their LTE network. If T-Mobile can match Verizon and AT&T in the rural areas and then keep their higher speed connections in their urban areas, we could see some major growth for the Magenta carrier.

The reports for 700Mhz Band 12 sightings are happening all the time now. Some new markets have been announced this year. I'm going to pick up a Band 12 compatible phone in the next month or so and start doing some searching to find new Band 12 towers and see if T-Mobile is able to meet their goal.

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