T-Mobile could gain from AT&T’s Band 17 and Band 12 LTE network interoperating

T-Mobile
According to a filing with the FCC, AT&T is progressing well with its promise to support band 12 and band 17 700MHz network interoperability. It’s working with smaller carriers – presumably T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular included – to prepare for this interoperability between the two flavors of 700MHz network. AT&T has said that before the mid-way point of this year, it will have devices available which are capable of interoperating between bands 12 and 17.

As reported by Fierce Wireless, until 2013, AT&T had maintained that it would not support Band 17 alongside Band 12 because it “would be too expensive and would cause interference.” But since then, the company has changed its stance.

“Specifically, the company said it will develop, implement and deploy throughout its network multi-frequency band indicator (MFBI) capabilities that will let its network operate simultaneously in both Band 12 and Band 17 and support devices in both band classes.”

What this means for T-Mobile customers is that, potentially, they can roam on AT&T’s 700MHz network in areas where the carrier doesn’t have its own LTE. And – after the move to alter terms by the FCC – AT&T won’t be able to charge whatever it likes for the privilege. It also means that a number of AT&T’s devices on sale will – if unlocked – be compatible with T-Mobile’s spectrum.

T-Mobile plans to use its current 700MHz spectrum portfolio to its fullest extent by the end of this year, hopefully covering 190 million people with its low-band airwaves.

Source: FCC
Via: Fierce Wireless

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  • I don’t get it. WHY would AT&T do that? Missing some analysis there Cam!

    • DDLAR

      Pressure from the FCC.

      • Bradley Karas

        True story. Rather get some money out of magenta then have the FCC favor them in the upcoming auction which sounds like a possibility. Or maybe to raise capital

    • Ashton3002

      I read on a site they might see a potential for LTE roaming.

    • Chris

      Sign of good faith for the upcoming auction. If consumers can roam at a cheaper fee then TMobile doesn’t really need to be thrown a bone for the next spectrum auction. If I as a TMobile customer won’t have to pay more to roam ATT LTE and it’s seamless then I don’t care who owns the bandwidth.

    • pda96

      I’m with you. What’s in in for AT&T? First of all, is AT&T transmitting band 12 frequency? It’s just band 17, right? So what if their phones are compatible with both b12 and b17? Aren’t they making it easier for their customers to switch to TMO?

      • Band 17 is a subset if band 12. The FCC screwd up the 700 MHz band so badly that band 17 had to be created until TV stations on channel 51 would relocate. Look at how the 700 MHz band 28 was defined in the rest of the world to understand it.

        • Kogashuko

          And as a byproduct most every phone available today is physically able to support band 12 but yet it is set to band 17. Editing NV values will do it but that is something the carriers could fix with an OTA update. Yet they want you to buy more phones.

        • I don’t think so. The hardware filters on a band 17 phone exclude the other frequencies in band 12.

        • Kogashuko

          I have heard some rumors about hardware filters but it seems unlikely since band 12 is used around the globe. Manufacturers dont like making county specific hardware. It is bad enough they have to deal with CDMA.

        • Band 12 is a North America thing. In the rest of the world, the 700 MHz band was configured much more elegantly and rationally under band 28, AKA the APT band.

        • Kogashuko

          Yes but there are a few countries to use it. I will have to find the list but I thought China was on there.

        • Nope. APT stands for Asia Pacific Telecommunity. Band 28 has been almost universally adopted in China, Japan, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Middle East. The botched band 12 and 13 is a gift from the FCC to the American people.

        • Kogashuko

          Your right I looked at the list last night. There are more band 12 US carriers than I thought though. Just imagine how messed up 600mhz will be, I dont remember seeing any of that on the list either.

        • Hopefully, the FCC will work together with other countries and do something similar to the APT band 28 in the 600 MHz band. The FCC better leave it to those who know what they are doing.

    • gmo8492

      I thought it was part of the failed acquisition back in 2011 where At&t agreed to pay T-mobile a 4 billion break-up fee and better roaming agreements with each network. I could be wrong though.

  • Tim O. Towers

    As a current T-mobile customer (and a recovering AT&T victim), I can see a potential benefit here. At least, if what is stated here is correct, then I’m hoping AT&T will allow T-mobile phones to roam on its low-band network.

  • Arturo B

    So does this means what? That the iPhone 6 could pick the 700mhz signal using AT&T’s band 17 being on the T-Mobile network? Or this is going to work only in roam areas and there’s limited data you can use?

    • scheddyballz

      It wouldn’t make sense for it to do that in a tmobile coverage area. This is only going to happen if there is no tmobile service and you are roaming in an ATT area

    • It just means there will be more band 12 capable phones in the future. I presume AT&T will push for manufactures to include band 12 in future phones to help their own network.

      The iPhone 6 will not benefit from this but the iPhone 6s is looking more and more likely to support band 12.

      • Arturo B

        I know!… :/ the bad thing Is Im gonna wait for the iPhone 7 cause I don’t wanna buy another phone which it would be just like the iPhone 6 just with a couple of hardware upgrades, I’ll wait for something different, you know what I mean a new design. I think I can survive 2016 with wifi calling in low coverage places… :/ besides since I live in NYC still a long way to move channel 51 and turn up the 700mhz.

        • Acdc1a

          Not trying to be an ass, but if you are going to be an Apple user, and a rational one, you should only be on the s upgrade path. They work out the bugs. The only people carrying a 6 are trendy isheep and people who couldn’t wait for an Apple phone with a real screen size.

        • Arturo B

          Not trying to be an ass, but your answer has nothing to do with the question I asked. It’s more like you’re an Apple hater, a rational one. But it’s okay I already got the answer I wanted from other people. And I won’t upgrade to the S line. I like the original line better more innovation inside and out, basically S line is more like small hardware upgrades leaving the same design of the original line. I’ll definitely waiting for the 7 instead, I can survive one more year in fact I live in NYC so there still a long way for NY to have 700mhz up and running.

        • Acdc1a

          So admittedly the same is better…I won’t pretend to understand but as long as you’re happy with your handset.

          I’m also not an Apple hater as much as an Apple fanboy hater. Those who are enveloped in the Apple ecosystem who prefer it because they’ve tried the competition and like Apple better are great. Those who have to buy the latest i-anything simply to be trendy are obnoxious.

  • NobodyYouKnow

    So, what exactly does this mean to an Average Joe Tmo customer like me who doesn’t understand cell phone technology. Can anyone explain in plain English?

    • schweddyballs

      More possibilities for better roaming coverage in the US, and more compatible devices that can be unlocked and brought over to tmobile. That’s about it

    • Oms

      Capable T-Mobile phones will work on the AT&T network and vice versa. This will allow roaming in more places where T-Mobile does not have coverage.

  • Greg Victor

    This is off topic. Just got a call from a t mobile store representative here in Brooklyn saying that S6 will be available for pre order on Friday the 27. Coincidentally the 27 is when Best Buy will be starting their pre orders.

    • gmo8492

      Nice, is there any confirmed color choices for the T-mobile S6?

      • Greg Victor

        I didn’t ask… ;-(

  • Brian Perez

    Lol tmobile needs to build its iwn network and stop depending on the big carriers NOTHING ELSE TO IT..

    • dontsh00tmesanta

      it is…….

      • Kogashuko

        It does that but they need to also reevaluate their roaming policy. If I cant get a tmobile signal for miles there is no reason roaming shouldn’t be enabled. I complained because ATT roaming only worked on one side of the tower, what did they do fixed it so it doesn’t work at all on the tower anymore!

        • dontsh00tmesanta

          People should get tmobile based on the coverage they have not what they want
          Roaming is severely capped anyway and only is useful in emergencies

    • TylerCameron

      AT&T got their massive GSM network by buying it from many others. Mostly Cingular.
      Verizon got most of their coverage by buying the competition as well.

  • guest

    Presumably current T-Mobile iPhones have Band 17, since Apple likes to make as few hardware versions as possible. Does this mean that current iPhone on the market may be able to receive an MFBI update that will let them work on Band 12 with a T-Mobile SIM present?

    • taron19119

      No

    • Cam Bunton

      No, not really. In simple terms, AT&T’s band 17 network can be picked up by band 12 phones. It – sort of – disguises itself as band 12. You still need the band 12 compatible device to make any use of this interoperability.

      • Brian Perez

        is the lg g3 capable of band12? I saw on late discovery that it runs on band4 in NYC

        • Kidney_Thief

          No, it’s not.

        • Kogashuko

          I wouldn’t be surprised if it were possible. Just not offered by the manufacturer.

  • Guest 1776

    I am not in the industry so please forgive my ignorance with this question…

    Why would AT&T want to help T-Mobile? As the article states, this interoperability will help T-Mobile which is becoming a thorn in AT&T’s side so why would they want to do something that helps T-Mobile?

    • Cam Bunton

      I can’t imagine for one second that AT&T’s motive is to help T-Mobile. That’s just a by-product of this move.

      • Kogashuko

        I figured more along the lines that they would buy up the rest of the 700a spectrum since Tmobile seems to be sitting on their hands on that one at the moment.

        • randomnerd_number38

          Are there any sources for this claim that t-mobile isn’t pursuing the 700mhz licenses anymore? I’m not being flippant, I’m genuinely curious. I’ve read it in comments on this site and on hofo, but I’ve never even seen so much as a “some sources close to the matter” article supporting it yet.

        • Curious Joe

          My guess is they already went after the low hanging fruit (easy to acquire spectrum)… they may be working on negotiations with other companies for an acceptable deal. Remember how much TMO paid VZW for the spectrum they got (IIRC.. close to 3 billion dollars)? If the asking price on some spectrum is too expensive in some areas, it may be cheaper to just sign a roaming agreement for a few years in those areas until spectrum (perhaps 600Mhz?) can be had for a better price. So yeah, AT&T is a competitor, but they are also a service provider, if TMO dangles a couple billion in front of AT&T for a roaming agreement, they would be foolish to not want to do business.

        • Kogashuko

          Yeh, Contenuum 700 owns a lot of A and in many of their markets A, B, and lower E. I am sure after aws 3 they want quite a bit for all of it with the buildout deadline extended. However, with that much mid band spectrum Tmobile is foolish for not picking that up. They should get as much 700 as they can before proceeding to 600mhz. They are foolish if they think it will go any different than aws3. Not to mention that it will be years before they can deploy on it. 700mhz is a much safer bet now for a fast growing company trying to get customers.

    • MKashi

      It was part of a 2013 agreement with the FCC. Makes things look better for them when FCC looks at ATT + DirecTV

      • Fabian Cortez

        It has more to do with AT&T and Dish.

  • Curious Joe

    So, out of curiosity, what does AT&Ts Band 17 coverage map look like? Would it be good to roam on in say Chicago where TMO doesn’t have any Band 12 right now?

    • Tim O. Towers

      This site will tell you. (Band 17 is B and C blocks)

      http://specmap.sequence-omega.net/

    • Justin Smith

      Roaming in Chicago would not be possible… I think you misunderstood what the roaming part ment.

      • Curious Joe

        Why would it be impossible? I understand perfectly fine what roaming means. If I go into a building in downtown Chicago where there is NO TMO signal, but where there IS an AT&T Band 17 signal, why would they make it impossible to roam on that signal so long as my phone is NOT picking up a usable TMO signal? Granted it’s cheaper for TMO to not have an agreement in Chicago… but that is short sighted. TMO is now going after the business market, Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the country. How many Chicago based businesses are going to be TMO customers if they cant get a reliable service both inside and outside of buildings in downtown Chicago?

        • Kidney_Thief

          That’s not how it works. You’ll only roam on AT&T in locations where T-Mobile doesn’t have native coverage, so not Chicago.

        • yankeesusa

          This is most likely true. On sprint, they started doing the same thing. So i rooted and would force the phone to roam in areas that i had issues. Too bad you can’t do the same with tmobile.

        • TMOGUY

          Kidney thief is correct. Roaming is allowed per LAC areas (google LAC ‘Location Area Code’). You can only use a ATT signal in a LAC that has been designated as a roaming LAC for TMO on ATT. That’s why when your phone locks to an ATT signal when their’s no TMO it basically stops working. This has happened to me many times and it does drive me nuts. But, if this restriction wern’t in place any TMO customer could lock on to an ATT signal and just use it anywhere, anytime..(by going in to network settings on your phone and searching/choosing ATT) That would be a roaming disaster for both companies.

        • Omar Boyer

          i dont know why tmobile doesnt allow that here in los angeles its the same thing i know cuz i had tmobile .. lets say u go into a building and u loose service and u went into the phone settings network settings and searched for available networks and found only AT&T and clicked it u get a error message saying u cant register onto that network i know cuz i did that plenty of times when att was the only network available it never let me register on it with my tmobile phone here in LA. Obviously that changed when i switched to att i had no problems anymore with signal but thats a different story.

        • Oms

          If T-Mobile is able to negotiate more favorable roaming rates w/AT&T it may be a possibility. In the letter to the FCC requesting their help to negotiate more favorable roaming rates, T-Mobile explained that even in areas where they have built out networks (i.e. Chicago area) they may still need roaming in order to offer more reliable service. I’m assuming they are referring to the gaps in coverage due to the lack of low band spectrum to penetrate through dense buildings. See http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7521151798 page 10, #31

      • Toffer_Lloyd

        But only because T-Mobile chooses not to allow it right? Afterall Sprint roams in-market on Verizon for voice and text. I don’t see why AT&T would allow out of market roaming only and not in-market roaming. It must be a T-Mobile business decision.

    • maximus1901

      TMO will not allow roaming (today) on lte period!
      Furthermore TMO chooses which att towers you’re allowed to roam 2g/3g. Even if you’re in a building with ZEERROOOO TMO service, TMO blocks roaming if it has service outside the building.

      • Curious Joe

        See, if TMO does business that way and continues to do so… then they are shooting themselves in the foot. If I were a business owner in a particular city that doesn’t have Band 12 (Chicago is a perfect example of that scenario) I’m NOT going to tell my Sales Reps and Service Technicians they have to leave our customers offices so they can get a phone signal…. poor signal quality/strength inside customer offices makes it a no brainier to eliminate TMO from the list of potential vendors. Bear in mind, I have TMO for my personal service, I really like TMO, I really like what they are doing. So don’t think me a Troll for talking about how critical it is for TMO to take seriously how critical it is to have broad coverage that also works well inside buildings.

        • maximus1901

          Att owns b12 in Chicago but they are a willing seller. Problem is there’s ch51 in Chicago.
          Another problem is TMO has 3 b12 phones.
          I don’t think TMO will become truly viable for businesses until they have b12 everywhere.

        • Curious Joe

          “I don’t think TMO will become truly viable for businesses until they have b12 everywhere.” For now, I agree with that statement 1000% I think in the long run Band 12 is only a “Band Aid” until the 600 auction is over and that spectrum starts to go live. I surely hope that TMO bids on 600 as though it were a life or death situation…. I fully believe 600 coverage in the long run will be more important to TMO than band 12 is currently.

        • Kogashuko

          Yes it is just so far off for a national carrier with no mid band spectrum.

      • eAbyss

        They don’t allow it now but I expect a 3G/HSPA+ and/or LTE roaming agreement within the next year or so as AT&T continues to shut down it’s 2G network. We can’t roam on 2G forever.

        • maximus1901

          TMO already has 3G roaming; they just limit it to 100kbps.
          I roamed onto att in nw mich and I was on 3G.

          TMO disallows roaming in areas where in has coverage.

        • slybacon08

          I was roaming on AT&T 4G in Idaho in February on my iPhone.

  • joemail

    so does this mean i can get in building reception roaming on ATT in NYC ahead of the dreaded dismantling of the ch51 station in NJ?

  • UMA_Fan

    I wonder if there are some non a block 700 MHz out there T-Mobile can still potentially buy. The good thing about most of the other blocks of 700mhz is that they are already compatible with most of the phones out today including all the iPhones.

    • maximus1901

      No there’s not. Att owns it if it’s worth having.

    • eAbyss

      They own some B and C block in North Dakota, I think enough for 15+15 in some areas, but I don’t think they’re going to find any more anywhere.

    • Kogashuko

      Contenuum owns a lot of A still along with A, B, and lower E in many of their markets. Would be worth whatever they pay for it.

  • Brian Cicalese

    How does this affect iPhone 6 plus owners?

    • randomnerd_number38

      It doesn’t in the least. the iPhone 6 plus doesn’t support band 12.

      • superg05

        @Brian cic like all phones apple you’ll need the s version that fixes all of the previous versions issues

        • TylerCameron

          Not having band 12 is hardly an “issue”
          Hardly any phone support band 12, and there’s VERY few band 12 markets in the country. Further, the iPhone was being developed before band 12 became a thing. They would’ve had to scrap the modem design at the last minute to support it.

  • a d00d

    Looking at this discussion, it seems none of you are remembering that Band-12 IS A *SUBSET* OF BAND-17. Since links aren’t allowed, just go look at Wikipedia’s “E-UTRA” page under “Frequency Bands and Channel Bandwidths”. (Also available plenty of other places.)

    Besides that, my other point is that if 17 is a subset of 12, how would they not interoperate? As usual AT&T’s argument makes no sense on its face, and only makes sense to people they can bribe, er, lobby.

    • superg05

      it was all band 12 at&t and verizion lobbied to have it cut up

    • TMOGUY

      Phones originally built for Band 17 had special hardware built in to eliminate interference to neighboring frequencies (i.e. channel 51) that also eliminated their ability to be used in band 12.. This was a technical hurdle that had to be overcome by phone manufacturers. The FCC pushed for this and made it happen.

      • Kogashuko

        I am not sure that has been in place for a while. If I root my phone and edit NV values I will let everyone know.

  • TripleF

    So an AT&T phone with band 17 will be supported on T-Mobile’s band 12 spectrum?

    • Kidney_Thief

      Nope, it surely will not.

  • Fabian Cortez
  • Let us not forget that the data roaming allowance is a pittance between 10 and 50MB, typically (v. t-mo{dot}co/1GdzSHG ). Quite a bit of ado about a pittance.

    • Curious Joe

      E-Mail and Voice Calls are what drive’s business customers needs. That is what’s critical…. a missed call can mean the difference of gaining or losing a major customer/contract, so having reliable coverage is critical, and remember a small amount of data is better than no service at all.

    • eAbyss

      *50-500MB*

  • Chris Meyers

    This isnt a roaming thing, that part of the article is just wrong. This is a lower 700 band harmonization move in accordance with the FCC. The only benefit for T-Mobile customers is that all future ATT phones will be band 12 supporting so the handset pool and support for Tmo becomes a bit better.

    • Curious Joe

      “This isnt a roaming thing” <— Perhaps not.

      BUT I'd fully expect that with this news, AT&Ts change of direction makes roaming a much more realistic & viable opportunity. With the technology hurdle out of the way, the only thing from there is getting to agreeable terms between TMO and ATT.

    • bored

      AT&T had priorly refused devices that “had the capacity to operate in band 12” to operate on its network. This means T-Mobile devices can’t roam on AT&T networks, nor can unlocked cellphones that support band 12 be used on AT&T networks.

      Basically, abusing FCC statures to create monopolistic forces.