T-Mobile offering to buy spectrum from smaller rivals

t-mobile-glass-building

According to a report at NYPost, T-Mobile is putting together a back-up plan in case the merger with Sprint doesn’t go through. T-Mo has purportedly been offering to buy low-band spectrum from a number of smaller carriers to help boost its network performance in major built-up areas like New York City.

Earlier this year, the company sealed a major deal to buy low-band 700MHz spectrum from Verizon. Spectrum which – as of yet – hasn’t been implemented in to any of the carrier’s networks. And, of course, there’s next year’s huge 600MHz spectrum auction which could see the company acquire even more valuable airwaves to use as it continues to bolster its network.

More importantly, the A-block acquired from VZW covers about half the population of the U.S. The rest of the 700MHz is held by 33 smaller carriers including US Cellular. NYPost speculates that AT&T is also looking at the possibility of buying the airwaves.

“[T-Mobile] could be trying to push for this spectrum now before reaching the Sprint deal,” the source said.

Of course none of this news is anything to be surprised by. T-Mobile has openly stated a number of times during events, or afterwards in interviews, that it is looking in to a number of avenues for acquiring much needed low-band spectrum. For the most part, that was always going to involve buying airwaves from smaller carriers. Something which undoubtedly was going to happen regardless of any proposed deal to merge with Sprint.

Source: NYPost

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  • Alex Zapata

    Personally I’d rather see them pick up the smaller carriers themselves, but I realize that it might not be financially sound to do so.

  • I still believe their best option is to acquire the smaller companies to grow rather than merge with Sprint. Oh well,its prob a done deal.

    • Paul

      I’m inclined to agree but it could be cheaper to buy the spectrum in some cases.

    • S. Ali

      This right here. There are a number of key strategic acquisitions T-Mobile (or Sprint) could engage in to grow organically. Both companies should prioritize their build outs first. Spectrum isn’t worth crap if you don’t have towers/equipment to support customers. Most 700mhz Block A owners are just squatting on the spectrum. FCC shouldn’t allowing anyone to buy spectrum without plans to roll it out.

      • Adrayven

        ironically, getting the towers is more difficult because many cities will block the building of towers because they consider them ugly.. Carriers have had to negotiate for years just to get one tower up before.. crazy hard these days.

        • S. Ali

          These days carriers don’t own their own towers, they lease towers through companies like Crown Castle, American Tower, GTP. So its much easier to get towers because CC handles those build outs. Some time ago T-Mobile, Sprint, and ATT sold off their tower assets to CC.

        • dtam

          in metro areas, they lease roof top space from tall buildings.

        • S. Ali

          True, but T-Mobile doesn’t have coverage problems in Metro regions, its the rural areas they need to lease towers (for ideal 700mhz propagation)

        • dtam

          not exactly. 700 mhz will allow for better building penetration also

        • Trevnerdio

          Yeah…ain’t that the truth. I can’t get signal at my airport because the 5 locals their didn’t want it there.

      • DirkDigg1er

        I’m still waiting for Dish to deploy that ‘trove of valuable spectrum’.

    • Jay J. Blanco

      I agree. Regional carriers are perfect for organic growth

    • tuba1993

      But then you kill the regional carrier competition. The regionals can only provide so much, and are not worth the payout. The big two are buying the regional carriers for spectrum. And to keep others away from the spectrum.

  • anshephe

    All my friends who have sprint are always holding their phones saying come load or connection error.

  • Binny Gupta

    Why not us cellular?

    • Exactly! Or even C-Spire. Centurylink is the 3rd largest Hardline phone service,a co-operation with them could be beneficial.

      • Stone Cold

        CenturyLink is partnered with Verizon in Colorado for wireless service needs. Will be interesting to see what happens. If AT&T is allowed to buy Direct TV

        • ChitChatCat

          It’ll be a great for new Dish Network partnerships.

    • monkeybutts

      Oh god just saw some of their rates they are pretty much exactly the same cost as Verizon and AT&T, so much for competition from smaller carriers if the merger somehow actually goes through they would be the #4 carrier by size.

  • taron19119

    Seems like t-mobile is trying to get Sprint to try and buy them knowing it’s going to fail and get 2 billion and use it to buy the rest of the. 700mz spectrum

  • Verizonthunder

    I knew this would happen, they have ideas their at T-Mobile. It makes sense that way the major metropolitan areas are able to reach further inside buildings

  • futureopen

    @cam_bunton:disqus Can you please do an article on how the different bands work, Whats with the different frequencies/spectrum and how these end up affecting the end user.

    @anyone: If you have any links to these, please post

    All I’ve read are the comments from readers and most of the time its contradicting. :(

    • DDLAR

      Low bands travel a lot further. They also penetrate buildings much better than mid and high bands.
      The downside of low bands (as I understand it) is that they can’t support as many simultaneous connections as higher bands.

    • besweeet

      Basically, band 4 (“AWS” at 1700/2100MHz) is used for their HSPA+ in most areas as well as their LTE. AWS is good for congested areas and peak speeds, but is limited in terms of power output a bit (I think). Then you have band 2 (“PCS” at 1900MHz), also used in areas for HSPA+ and eventually their LTE. Both of these are considered “high-band frequencies” to where they naturally won’t work as well through objects, such as buildings, as let’s say 850MHz or band 12 @ 700MHz. Signal strength and distances can still be fine in many situations, especially if cell site density is high enough, so that natural fact may not be that big of an issue for many areas.

      That’s just the gist of it, and I’m pretty sure most of that is accurate. Hope this helps.

    • ChitChatCat

      There are lots of articles and comment threads about spectrum in the archives here. There are a few spectrums gurus that hang around and write/comment.

  • DDLAR

    I think it’s unlikely that AT&T is not seriously in the market for this spectrum. T-Mobile now owns all of this block in most major metropolitan areas. They also own it in most densely populated areas. What’s left is mostly rural. AT&T has enough low band spectrum for their needs in rural areas already. It’s not a lot of spectrum and wouldn’t really make a big difference for them. I think AT&T has very little real interest in this spectrum.
    On the other hand, T-Mobile has very poor coverage in many rural areas. Low band spectrum could be a game changer for them in these areas.

  • Paul

    I think this is a great move, but Magenta should also consider smaller carriers to purchase for the right price. Why merge with Sprint when we could possibly buy US Cellular? I’m sure it’s a money issue, but it’s an idea that should be put on the table.

    • DDLAR

      There are a few issues with US Cellular. First, it’s privately owned and the owners have been reluctant to sell. There have been recent noises that this might change, but it’s still unclear. US Cellular is CDMA which is a bit of a problem also.
      On the other hand, I think you’re right that it would be a good fit with T-Mobile. It’s strong in areas where T-Mobile is weak. They also align well on frequencies.

      • sushimane

        They may be CDMA but t-mobile bought spectrum from them a year and half ago

        • DDLAR

          When buying spectrum it doesn’t matter if the previous owner used it for CDMA, GSM, LTE or whatever. However, when merging companies it matters a lot which technologies the two companies use.

      • Tyler Kirchman

        Look how fast they turned metro PCS around

      • CPPCrispy

        CDMA is less of an issue when you factor in VoLTE. Last time I checked, US Cellular uses 700 a & b and 1700 AWS for LTE and 850 and 1900 for CDMA. If the technology they use for LTE is compatible with T-Mobiles equipment and phones, then T-Mobile could implement VoLTE on USC LTE network for T-Mobile customers and keep CDMA for USC customers while the transition happens. Basically as long as the LTE networks and phones are compatible with each other, the fact that USC uses CDMA for voice/3G is less of an issue. Also, if you look at USC coverage map, they have LTE coverage in many places where T-Mobile still has 2G.

      • Paul

        I’m sure there’s reasons that sale hasn’t happened yet. It’s something both parties should consider.

  • vinnyjr

    T-Mobile has done so much so fast it is really hard to believe. John Legere gets allot of heat from the other Network spamers that jump on thye forum just to bash him. They should be kissing his butt because of him and his team they have just about forced the Mobile Industry to change it’s ways. Who would think the smallest of the big 4 Carriers was the cause and force of the complete change in Mobile Tech. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all have dropped their prices, offering better plans and changed the way they even sell their phones, all because of T-Mobile with John Legere running the show. Nope, don’t spam him but send him a check, he has saved you allot of money. This time next year I hope T-Mobile is still T-Mobile without Sprint, they can do nothing but ruin all the hard work that has been done over the past 2 years.

  • NOYB

    http://www.cnet.com/news/sprint-expands-lte-roaming-agreements-with-12-carriers/

    Sprint just made a roaming deal with some small carriers. How does that figure into this?

  • maximus1901

    Sprint/T-Mo will have comparable scale to AT&T and Verizon Communications, but that’s where the comparison stops. For several years, Sprint/T-Mo will have an inferior infrastructure, weak cost structure and (arguably) an unsustainable capital structure. As Sprint/T-Mo works to address these weaknesses, AT&T and Verizon will press ahead. Also, regulatory concessions, particularly the Sprint chairman’s suggestion of a price war if the deal is allowed to proceed, could make margin improvement even more challenging.
    (Some article)

  • NOYB

    According to CNET, Sprint just made roaming agreements with 12 small regional carriers. How would that correlate with this new development?

  • Ginagg909

    I really hope they do end up doing something about coverage i bought a boost mobile phone the lg volt as a back up for when i travel ,people talk bad about sprint (i heard boost uses sprint) but on my trip to vegas and Arizona last week i had solid 3G evdo all the way and in some parts the lte icon came on on my cheap boost phone while my tmobile note 3 had nada not even Edge or G ,When i would finally get service on tmobile on some parts it would be edge but data didn’t work at all!!! I couldn’t even access fb or check email calls worked so did texts but like i said that was when i was able to find a signal cuz most of the time i had none. Boost aka sprint 3G all the way i know its 3G cdma but at least data worked yes it worked i was shocked in the middle of the dessert i had working 3G evdo data ,calls also worked fine since it had 1x signal all the way.

    • Eric

      T-Mobile is upgrading all EDGE (even GRPS) towers to LTE by mid-2015.

      • Ginagg909

        Meanwhile i cant wait till 2015 i travel alot for work i think ill just cancel tmobile n stay with boost . Tmobile just dont work for us that travel alot ..

        • Brad C

          I use T-Mobile all over Arizona with no issues, the rural roaming agreements that T-Mobile has here are superb thanks to Cellular One and Commnet. I can always roam onto Commnet’s 3G network and Cellular One’s where they have it.

          Sprint on the other hand has left much to be desired here time and time again, I cannot even load Google Maps in Phoenix half the time. To each is own i guess, but i get a free phone for Sprint and still won’t even use that POS.

        • Ginagg909

          Hiw did you roam on another network ???my note 3 didn’t. I was stuck at places in the middle of nowhere with no service while boost had 2to 3 bars of 3G.

        • JP

          Maybe you had raoming blocked on your phone under your settings.

        • superg05

          that’s true it is unchecked by default

        • Ginagg909

          Dam i wish i knew this! Thanks i found it i had it off. Maybe then next time itl be better on tmobile

      • vrm

        boost is cr@p – it is a second class citizen of sprint and sprint is a 3rd class carrier at best.

    • Mschmal

      I know how you feel. I loose T-mobile data in the middle of westchester cty on i684! Its a major commuter link to NYC. Total Fail.

  • gpt2010

    They better have a back up plan if the merger does go through. The FCC won’t give the Sprint / TMO an advantage over AT&T and Verizon in the major auction next year if the merger does go through. This is a great move from TMO to look down spectrum wherever they can get it.

    • izick

      Speculation.

  • Tony Chen

    T mobile does not need sprint.

    • JNawaz

      Yeah, it feels to me like Softbank wants to get T-Mobile because they bought the wrong carrier to break into the US market.

      • izick

        Maybe, but it could have been the other way around. They could have bought T-Mobile, and then went after Sprint. Either way, I think the plan has always been to gain scale to compete against the top two effectively.

        Both brands are tarnished, the same way some of us would never consider using AT&T and/or Verizon (I will NEVER use Verizon!) is how most of the customers of the big two feel about either Sprint and/or T-Mobile. They see them as carriers for poor people, cheap people, and overall lesser quality. In some ways, the last statement is true, in some ways it’s not. A brand refresh, with enough customers to sing its praises and a network to back it up is what is needed. Investors will be less cautious to lend to a company with 100 million customers for upgrades, consolidation, and spectrum license purchases than to one with only 50 million.

        • v

          tmobile’s brand currently is at the top – the influx of subscribers is mainly due to that- has nothing to do with n/w or speed or anything.

          For young folk, it has become cool to join t-mobile now. In my experience, their customer service is also the best, though I would not rate their tech support as the best.

          Keep ignoring facts and spouting lies and sprint shilling. Your FUD is recognized.

        • DirkDigg1er

          Also, Sprint has had the worst corner cutting corporate investors throughout the last 6 years. It seems like their old investors sacrificed brand loyalty for profits. I applaud Dan Hesse for being the glue until Son and Co.

          Sprint had to be purchased 1st. Dish tried to strongarm Clear and Sprint at a steal.

      • DirkDigg1er

        Sprint was the better choice at the time with resources spread so far apart and competition with Dish over the purchase at the time. Why didn’t we hear anything about Dish interest in T-Mobile after losing bid for Sprint? It seems like all of these companies are working together lol.

        Sprint buying Clear has set back Dish at least 5 years with its wireless broadband strategy. If Softbank fails to acquire T-Mobile, Dish may pursue a similar mobile broadband plan.

    • Jesse James

      No but at this point Sprint is a dead company. I like the people running Tmo right now and if the continue to run the show I dont see the problem in Tmobile consuming Sprint for any resources/customers.

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    awesome!!!!!!!

  • Aurizen

    They need spectrum, when I tell people about T-Mobile they say they have bad service and cant get service in the Subway, if they get low ban spectrum they can gain even more people! Espically if its spectrum compatible with current phones unlike the 700 A-block.

    • DirkDigg1er

      That wouldn’t change coverage in the subway system. The infrastructure throughout the transit system would have to be upgraded and or a 3rd party deal through wifi providers would suffice.

      • Aurizen

        ohh I thought AT&T spectrum penetrated through underground and still have decent service. well I just want T-Mobile to get better service, its been getting a lot of increased potential.

        • DirkDigg1er

          I also want them to continue improvements. My only fear is without the right resources in place, they will suffer during the slow period.

  • Jay Holm

    Any spectrum available for T-Mobile to buy in Connecticut?

    • miggs

      The Verizon low-band spectrum they bought includes most, if not all, of Connecticut. They closed the deal a few months ago. They expect to start rolling it out around the end of the year.

      • Jay Holm

        That’s great news! I will be patient in upgrading, I have the S4, and am still happy.

  • Dark enV

    Awesome news I’m really hoping they’re able to get 700mhz for Upstate SC, I believe a small carrier called Cavalier owns the A block for this area, make it happen T-Mobile! Also hoping the iPhone 6 or whatever it will be called will be able to utilize the 700mhz network

    • sushimane

      We will see I also live in the upstate. When I do speed test I get like 38 mpbs down and 20 mpbs up

      • Dark enV

        Oh awesome, yeah I grt speeds like that as well, I’m in the Spartanburg area and I’m usually in the 30’s on download, it’s outside the city where I have the issues and low band LTE would definitely help in some smaller areas so I can get my family to switch from Verizon

        • sushimane

          Yeah the worst location is at my friends house he lived in spartanburg but his house is located at the lowest point on his street back then I barely get any service once I step in his house but now I get h which is better then nothing

  • Wilfredo Martinez

    Softbank is going to lose 2 billion dollars. T-Mobile will stay independent, with 700 MHZ spectrum nationwide. Sprint would finally be forced to compete and upgrade its mediocre network and get a new marketing department, or possibly Sprint could change its name to Softbank to become a fresh new brand that would allow users to bring their own device and unlock people’s phones once its fully paid? Then afterwards when the 600 MHZ auction occurs, all 4 carriers will scoop up a slice of that as well and consumers will all benefit greatly from all of this. But if the merger goes through…. it’ll be evil and gloom for consumers!