LTE network growing fast, A-block spectrum rolling out later this year

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Apart from the ETFs of other carriers being paid, T-Mobile made sure we knew they have the best LTE coverage in the U.S. At least, they have the fastest. Results gathered from real-life users’ tests on SpeedTest.net have shown T-Mobile’s average download speeds to be faster than all three of the other major U.S. carriers. Tmo’s LTE now covers 209 million people in 273 metro markets, which makes it the fastest growing too.

This – of course – in thanks in part to the roll-out of 20+20 LTE. It’s begun in Dallas – as we reported back in November – and is making its way quickly to other major metro areas. Branded as Wideband LTE, it brings much, much faster download speeds.

For those of you worried about having to buy a new device, you’ll be glad to know that most of T-Mobile’s current LTE lineup is compatible with the 20+20 network.  Any category 4 device, like the Nexus 5, LG G2 and Galaxy Note 3 will be able to take full advantage of the speeds on offer by the 20+20 network. Category 3 devices like iPhone 5/5S/5c, Galaxy S3/S4/Note 2 will be compatible, but, won’t be quite as fast. Still, plenty fast enough. During the keynote they made a point of comparing this with Verizon’s new AWS airwave offerings, which amazingly, aren’t compatible with many of its phones. Of course, the three new devices (Sony Xperia Z1S, LG G Flex and Galaxy Tab 3) are all compatible.

A-block? 

One thing I really enjoyed about today’s announcement was the feeling of honesty. We know T-Mobile recently agreed a deal to buy Verizon’s low-band A-block airwaves. The deal involved around $2.3 billion and some swapping of various spectrum. They refused to give any promises to roll this out quickly. In fact, when discussing time scales, it seems more likely that it’ll be in the second half of the year, perhaps even the fourth quarter, before we see any of these markets lighting up.

The idea here is to expand and broaden the LTE coverage in some key markets, and bring better quality coverage. Low-frequency airwaves are much more adept at getting through walls and in to buildings. It’s an absolute must for a network that almost solely relies on higher frequencies for its coverage.

Network + Insane Offers = Lots of new, happy customers? 

See, T-Mobile could easily have presented the new Uncarrier plans today without once mentioning coverage. The deal to get people switching for its network is pretty incredible. But, the fact that it’s taken time to make a big deal about its LTE expansion, the acquisition of lower band airwaves and the upgrade to 20+20 LTE, means that magenta is as serious about the experience of being on the network as it is about being the most competitively priced option in the wireless industry.

Perhaps what will be more interesting now is seeing how the competitors respond, particularly AT&T.

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  • roy

    Wish they would get coverage in morton il and washington il these area suck for tmobile att verizon and sprint have lte with att being the fastest

    • FluX

      Why not switch to the carrier that provides you with the best deal and coverage? Be thankful that you get what you pay for.

      • Bori

        Are you in a LTE Market?

        • roy

          No but when i go to peoria il there lte rocks my oldest daughter has tmobile prepaid and i had to test there network to see how well it did compaired to att and verizon few buddys has verizon and i have att another buddy has sprint which plain sucks here
          In peoria il verizon averaged about 11mbps , att averaged about 22mbps ,tmobile averaged 30mbps, and sprint came in last at 5mbps

        • roy

          Tmobile does have a good deal, but since i use data most of the time on my device when at work i need the faster data coverage gsm or edge wont work but as soon tmobile get hspa or lte in these areas i work at ill be more then happy to switch carriers because tmobile would save me about 20 bucks a month

        • FluX

          Actually I am in a market but I do not get LTE because I am not in downtown which I hardly go to. But I don’t complain about my EDGE speeds.

        • roy

          Dont know where ur at but gsm and edge speeds in morton il area running 63kbps to 233kbps on edge and type of web pages i have to load is very graphical blue prints of john deer tractors

    • Bob Brown

      Also agree with roy above on TMO coverage in Peoria/Morton/Washington/Joliet/Aurora IL areas. These areas are important to a major multinational manufacturer, with many international employees/visitors. TMO may not recognize the potential number of these GSM phone users, as possible customers..

      TMO can always do better in areas outside the big metros. No data coverage on major interstates, once you get 45 miles outside of downtown Chicago, IL, is not acceptable, if TMO wants to compete. I-80 westbound, southbound I-55 and I-57 are major Illinois interstate examples of this.

  • Marcoshay

    I live in Yuma AZ and it’s another area with terrible coverage. Entirely Edge but get the three competitors have LTE.

    • Trevnerdio

      That’s sad…
      Love you, T-Mobile, but ya gotta step it up in that area.

    • dontsh00tmesanta

      Why not switch?

    • me

      If it’s important enough then you should switch to another carrier.

  • sushimane

    im happy for tmobile thats y im sticking with them. :)

  • Mark S.

    T-Mobile’s LTE is supposedly the fastest. I’d like to use them for LTE access on my soon to be purchased Windows 8 tablet. It as built-in LTE. Has T-Mobile announced any new types of mobile broadband plans?

    • FluX

      Will you get it though T-Mobile? If so you can get 200MB of free data. Or I think you can add on the tablet to your plan and get the 200MB of data and see if there are more plans (I would recommend going to a store or calling Customer Service).

      • me

        The 200MB free data only seem to be for iOS and Android devices. The Windows 8 tablet would be considered mobile broadband for PC. The same plans for hotspots and USB modems.

    • Paul

      They should have mobile network devices for laptops. Check the site, I’m sure they are about to, if not already, release something for your needs.

  • tidus1ph

    Can anyone explain to me what’s this “category” thing? Does this pertains on the antenna’s limitation in handling data (newer = faster)? Where can I check this out? I always use unlocked non carrier branded phones.

    • J-Hop2o6

      Yes. Read here of the cats: en.wikipedia[dot]org/wiki/E-UTRA#User_Equipment_.28UE.29_categories

      Category 2 = 51.0 Mbit/s
      Category 3 = 102.0 Mbit/s
      *Category 4 = 150.8 Mbit/s*
      Category 5 = 299.6 Mbit/s

  • Jay Holm

    So I have the S4, when 20×20 LTE is deployed in more markets, can I hope/expect 70mbps-ish? Right now, the fastest I’ve ever gotten on T-Mobile LTE is 40.7mbps.

    • J-Hop2o6

      Correct

    • ⓜ@®!ⓞ G@®CI@ ™

      Yes sir fastest I’ve gotten has been 55.63Mbps down and 20.15 Mbps Up on my S4

      • Jay Holm

        Wow! Where was that? So you think the S4 will be capable of 70+mbps when 20×20 is deployed?

        • ⓜ@®!ⓞ G@®CI@ ™

          This was in Covina California in 3 different locations inside a 24hour fitness, Subway and a Mc Donalds Lol I can easily pull 30-55 Mbps down in these locations This is with 10+10 which we got last month before on 5+5 highest I would get was 32Mbps down so yes I’m sure we will get 70Mbps when 20+20 comes :)

        • Jay Holm

          I use my T-Mobile phone in the Waterbury and New Haven areas of Connecticut mostly
          , where I live, near downtown Waterbury I get 3-4 bars of LTE, 20-30mbps.

        • ⓜ@®!ⓞ G@®CI@ ™

          Actually I know someone in Dallas where 20+20 is deployed and she has an iPhone 5 which is the same as our S4 category 3 and she has gotten 105.27 Mbps Download and 19.87 Upload so we who knows we might go above 70Mbps! :)

    • Paul

      I’m in the Dallas market and I’ve tested the new LTE speeds. I average about 50-70Mbps. However, in the mornings I can get over 100Mbps. I know, seems crazy and it really only happens in the morning when most people aren’t crowding the tower(s). I have screen shots to prove it, but it’s not going to be a common speed.

      You will notice a difference in speeds, but the usual factors of congestion can still effect the speeds.

  • FluX

    Do speeds above 10MBPS really matter for web browsing? I think high speeds will only benefit me when I am downloading stuff or running Speed Tests.

    • J-Hop2o6

      More speed = less low dips when more ppl are on the same tower. Think the Superbowl, Marathons, etc.

      • donnybee

        Actually that’s what bandwidth does

      • Trevnerdio

        Carriers move in mobile cell towers in those situations.

        • J-Hop2o6

          I know this also. I was gonna add that in, but I held back, not wanting to add too much in my post.

        • Trevnerdio

          Haha I gotcha, J

    • Paul

      Faster page loading; quicker response from the website serves. So yes, it does influence the web browsing experience. Of course, it depends on other factors as well. My browsers are setup to act like desktops so I don’t load mobile pages.

      From my experience, it does make a positive experience with browsing.

      • Jay Holm

        I say the more speed the merrier!!!

  • sushimane88

    I wonder how would the 700 MHz would work out would they send out a software update to the phones? I’m just curious I got the nexus 5?

    • Jason Crumbley

      The phone hardware would have to be able to support the frequency. If it doesn’t already, it won’t. A software update would not fix that. If the hardware does support it, then a software update would work.

      • sushimane88

        ok

      • superg05

        how long is nvida going to sit on those soft-modems

    • Guest

      This same question was asked earlier in a previous article, no you would need to get a new phone to support that band.

  • Aurizen

    This is great but A-Block wont benifit much people what about users who have iphones and Samsung galaxy and current phones?

    • moss

      By the time this rolls out I’m sure allot of people will be eligible for Jump upgrades

      • Aurizen

        yeah true, but I wanted to wait to upgrade till 5g comes out. I hear T-Mobile was bring them out soon.

        • TechHog

          5G is a very long way away. You won’t see that until around 2020. Maybe you’re thinking of LTE-Advanced? If so, that’s still 4G.

        • Aurizen

          I thought LTE-Advance is considered 5g. but yes, I am waiting for better phones to support that.

        • TechHog

          Nope, it’s not 5G. Current LTE doesn’t meet the full 4G max speed (1Gbps). LTE-A is meant to be the first true 4G standard.

        • Mark

          So TMo doesn’t want us calling HSPA+21 “4G” anymore?

        • TechHog

          I knew that someone would point this out. Yes, HSPA+ is mis-advertized as 4G, so there’s a chance that the same will happen with LTE-A. I hope not though, since that would screw everything up.

        • TMoFanatic

          HSPA+ is in my opinion NOT 4G at all. It is merely a beefed up 3G.

        • doubleatheman

          Noo… please dont let the carriers call LTE-A “5G”… arghh

  • HeatFan786

    What about the HTC One?

    • Jarobusa

      Good question one I would like to know also.

      • TMoFanatic

        As proeco mentioned the HTC One is a Category 3 device. So It will be unable to take full advantage of the Wideband LTE but still will see speed boosts. Category 3 devices like iPhone 5/5S/5c, Galaxy S3/S4/Note 2 will be compatible, but, won’t be quite as fast. Still, plenty fast enough.

    • neoslan

      Since I too own a HTC One, I looked the information up. According to FCC ID NM8PN07130, the HTC One is unfortunately only capable of Cat 3. The saving grace is that 4G LTE is plenty fast, no matter if it is Cat 3/4.

      • TMoFanatic

        But Cat 3 will still be able to take advantage of some speed boosts per the above referenced article: Category 3 devices like iPhone 5/5S/5c, Galaxy S3/S4/Note 2 will be compatible, but, won’t be quite as fast. Still, plenty fast enough.

        • Aurizen

          really the iphone 5 supoprts the A block spectrum?

      • HeatFan786

        Fair enough. I got the shaft with the SIII in 2012 and early 2013 with the LTE upgrade. I am getting the S5 or another device, so I might get my Cat 4 support eventually. Thanks.

  • Ae Tee

    They still need to expand edge coverage, and then expand HSPA and LTE.

    • Trevnerdio

      EDGE would be a total waste. Anything less than 14.4mbps HSPA+ is probably a waste at this time.

      • Ae Tee

        May well be, but you need to have as close to blanket coverage they don’t have that, not even with edge.

      • doubleatheman

        I agree. I have always hoped and though tmo is delaying coverage expansion so long, because they are waiting for VoLTE to be mature, so they only need to deploy a much cheaper and much more simple LTE only network in rural areas. An EDGE coverage expansion would be a waste, it would have to be supplemented with decent HSPA.

      • archerian

        GPRS and other slower speed tech will still be useful for M2M deployments, they are not popular yet, but they will be in the next few years…

        • Trevnerdio

          Based on a 90s tech. It’ll cost them so much to put up equipment and then it’ll be as useless as no data at all. It makes no sense.

        • Alex Zapata

          LTE-A has protocols to utilize M2M.

        • archerian

          the cost and power requirements in several M2M deployments still favor GPRS technology. That might change in the future, but there is a certain advantage in keeping the GSM network running.

  • GinaDee

    T-Mobile has added and will continue to utilize high band spectrum which gives them enormous capacity. This won’t stop.

    Now they will need to spend this year building out the purchased low band spectrum from Verizon and any additional low band spectrum they may purchase from other 700 MHz holders to improve in-buidling penetration, suburban reach and fringe areas.

    Hopefully by the time the next iPhone comes out it will include the new band. The ecosystem should be good for Band 12 later this year with AT&T finally getting on board and with the program. If T-Mobile could setup a roaming agreement with C-Spire and US Cellular using the same low band the ecosystem will grow faster.

  • Mark Reese

    Is the lumia 925 compatible with T-mobile new 700 spectrum ?

    • Draco

      The specs show it can pick up the 700 band but we’re not gonna see that service roll out for some time.

    • colonelcasey

      It is a listed LTE band for the RM-893 here: http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_lumia_925-5451.php

      Also, the 925 is only a Cat3 device.

    • Alex Zapata

      Not likely, it will only pick up band 17, this new spectrum is part of band 12.

      • Ae Tee

        So this is 700-12? On GSM Arena there are options for for 700, 700-13 and 700-17. What does the “700″ box mean in terms of bands? I Know 700-13 is verizons 700Mhz c block.

        • Alex Zapata

          700 just indicates that it’s in the 700MHz range, but there’s 4 bands within that 700MHz range.

        • greg5green

          There are blocks A, B, C in 700 Lower and blocks C and D in 700 Upper.

          Band 12 = Lower A/B/C, Band 13 = Upper C, Band 14 = Upper D, Band 17 = Lower B/C, Band 29 = Lower D and E (downstream only — would be used if you were going to do some carrier aggregation)

    • Mark Reese

      Thank everyone … im just as mixed up as before …. maybe the 925 will work but not perfectly like one of those devices i heard mentioned that will get a speed boost but will not be as fast as the new devices yet to be released.

  • Sam1116

    So this means that most likely I will have to get a new phone to get advantage of this lower frequency? It DOES NOT make sense. I already own a tmobile HTC ONE!!!!! Smh

    • Paul

      I assure you this isn’t a move to screw the customer base. If I still had my Galaxy S2 I’d be screwed out of the new freq. as well. Unfortunately, HTC didn’t feel the need to include the ability to cover other frequencies.

      • Sam1116

        I guess so. It was a need indeed since theAT&Tvariant does support this band frequency. This really sucks for us the consumers though. I bet you if tmobile would’ve taken this into consideration HTC would’ve loaded the phone with this particular band

        • philyew

          It isn’t just the frequency, there is banding within the frequency as well. I doubt that the AT&T device supports band 12 either.

          It’s doubtful that any carrier would ever be far-sighted enough to negotiate the inclusion of a new spectrum capability with a manufacturer over 18 months before they had any possibility of deploying it. When the HTC One was ordered, not only did TM not own any of the spectrum in question, but they hadn’t even raised the finances to be able to buy it. In fact they probably hadn’t even completed the MetroPCS merger at the time that ultimately allowed them to raise the money.

        • Paul

          You are right, but some of the more recent model, S4 and Note 3, do support it. I believe it was a matter of locking them down and only leaving certain ranges unlcoked. NO idea what is really going on, but it seems possible.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          No, they don’t.

        • Paul

          I may have misread something in that case. I am not finding anything to say that current devices are able to support it. My bad.

        • Sam1116

          Yup. TM invested $2.37 billion to acquire this A-block from Verizon. Money that they might’ve had 18 months ago. Who knows…

        • philyew

          We know that the money from the AT&T break up went directly to Deutsche Telekom and the majority of it was used to adjust their European debt situation. Around $1.4 billion was used to finance the network modernization program for TM.

          In October 2012, TM announced the MetroPCS deal which cost $1.5 billion or more.

          It’s therefore unlikely that there were funds available for a spectrum deal, even if it could have been foreseen that any part of the 700MHz band would become available. In reality, Verizon didn’t get interested in selling until they had spent $130 billion buying out Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless.

          At that point they could no longer sit around on spectrum holdings that they had no intention of using in the short term. They were also under pressure from FCC rules requiring that the spectrum had to be utilized within a particular timeframe.

          Once the pieces were in place, TM had to do a stock issue and sell senior notes, which together brought in $3.8 billion, in order to raise the funds for the purchase.

          I think it’s fairly safe to conclude from all of this that TM didn’t have the money for the transaction until very recently.

        • greg5green

          The AT&T variant does not support this band/frequency. The AT&T HTC One supports Band 17, which is the B and C blocks of the 700mhz spectrum. The T-Mobile’s A block is band 12.

    • bob90210

      It makes total sense. Your phone does not support the frequency and T-Mobile won’t even use the frequency until the end of the year. Relax, by the time LTE is deployed on the new frequency, your phone will be two years old and you’ll be itching to upgrade. If you don’t want to upgrade, that fine also. Your phone will work just as well as the day you bought.

  • tev

    When will tmobile introduce new voice/text plans?

    • Jay Holm

      Unlimited talk & text,…not good enough somehow???

      • TylerCameron

        Maybe not everyone wants to pay for unlimited minutes?
        I’m stuck on a value plan; 500 minutes/unlimited text/truly unlimited data.
        To switch to the new plans would cost me an extra $10/month.
        Oh, but then the plans wouldn’t be “simple” :
        I’m not dissing T-Mobile, I love them as a company and what they’ve done in the past year. But really, few people need unlimited minutes in 2014…

  • Brian

    I got to try 20+20 in Dallas over the weekend. I had 4.05 down and 17.36 up. This was north Dallas area. The up speed was awesome but network congestion down was terrible. Normally at home I get over 30 down and around 10 up.

    • Paul

      What part of North Dallas. I know near the tollway and belt line isn’t very good. If I go to 75 I get LTE easily.

    • Ben

      If you’re getting 4 Mbps down, it wasn’t 20+20. Not everywhere in Dallas is 20+20, just parts of Frisco and Plano at the moment. Congested on 20+20 looks like 50 Mbps, not 4.

      • Paul

        That’s true, and why I asked what part of Dallas he is in.

  • emcdonald75

    I do not understand T-Mobile’s coverage map. In Jackson, MS, the coverage map says that my home address and work address has LTE, but it does not show on my phone or any of my friends’ phones. At work, my phone switches between EDGE and 4G HSPA+ alot. Is this what happens before LTE is launched?

    • Will

      Actually yeah I’ve experienced erratic service while work on the tower was being done

    • Jay J. Blanco

      On sensorly(DOT)com it shows some trails of 4G LTE so T-Mobile is probably still working on the towers all over Jackson just be patient LTE is coming.

      • emcdonald75

        How long does work on a tower normally takes?