T-Mobile hopes to deploy LTE in all of its 700 MHz A Block spectrum this year

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) aims to deploy LTE in all of its 700 MHz A Block spectrum this year, according to T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. However, he cautioned the carrier may not achieve that goal.

Speaking yesterday during a question and answer session at T-Mobile's latest "uncarrier" event in New York, Ray said it is T-Mobile's "aspiration" to roll out LTE to all of the 190 million POPs it currently covers with 700 MHz spectrum licenses. "We are deploying it furiously," he said.

At the same time, he acknowledged, it is unlikely that T-Mobile will have it all deployed by year-end. However, Ray reiterated T-Mobile's goal of covering 300 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2015.

Ray and T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that the company now covers 270 million POPs with LTE, up from 265 million at the end of 2014. The company's mid-year target is 280 million POPs covered with LTE.

T-Mobile purchased the bulk of its 700 MHz spectrum licenses from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) for $2.4 billion in a deal announced early last year. T-Mobile has since added to its 700 MHz spectrum holdings through a variety of smaller purchases with other players. T-Mobile now covers around 60 percent of the U.S. population and more than 70 percent of T-Mobile's existing customer base with its 700 MHz spectrum licenses. The spectrum covers nine of the top 10 market areas and 24 of the top 30 market areas in the U.S. So far T-Mobile has deployed the spectrum in Cleveland; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dallas; Houston; Minneapolis and Washington, D.C

In those markets where it has deployed its 700 MHz licenses, Ray said T-Mobile has seen "huge improvements" in in-building coverage and "dramatic" rural expansion, noted PC Mag. T-Mobile plans to introduce more phones that work with the spectrum this year.

One hitch in T-Mobile's 700 MHz rollout efforts is interference from Channel 51 TV broadcasts. T-Mobile has said that around 75 percent of the population covered by the company's 700 MHz A Block spectrum is "free and clear and ready to be deployed or will be ready for deployment in the first half of 2015." The remainder is encumbered by interference, generally limiting T-Mobile's ability to use the spectrum until after the interference issues are resolved. That's a big problem for markets like New York. Yet T-Mobile has said it has already entered into agreements to relocate broadcasters to new frequencies or to operate concurrently in 10 markets covering more than 41 million POPs, making those markets available for launch in 2015.

"Every month that goes by we're adding more and more markets," Ray said. "We've had great opportunity to coexist with Channel 51 incumbents and we're going to keep driving very hard."

Expanding T-Mobile's LTE coverage is a major goal for the company this year. Verizon and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) have already hit the 300 million milestone of POPs covered with LTE. Sprint (NYSE: S) currently covers 270 million POPs with its LTE network. T-Mobile executives have said that expanding the company's network footprint will increase customer satisfaction, help reduce churn and potentially offer T-Mobile new growth opportunities as it expands into markets where it has not historically competed because of a lack of network coverage.

Legere acknowledged that T-Mobile is still expanding its coverage and needs to. "We have some rural edge, some in-building penetration that is still stuff we're working on," he said.

For more:
- see this PC Mag article

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