T-Mobile CTO suggests 2019 may be opportunity to move to all-LTE network

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With the prevalence of 4G LTE coverage and devices, there’s been some discussion of shutting down older networks. Today T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray touched on the topic as it relates to T-Mo.

Speaking during MWC 2017 in Barcelona, Ray explained that T-Mo would like to have GSM turned down by 2020, if not sooner. “What do we do first, 3G or 2G? That’s primarily driven by what you can do on voice,” Ray said, adding that a focus is on moving customers with older phones to newer models that support VoLTE.

The number of VoLTE phone calls conducted on T-Mobile has been growing steadily lately, and right now, around 70 percent of T-Mo phones calls are done using VoLTE. As customers with older phones upgrade to new ones that support VoLTE, that number will grow and the need for 2G and 3G coverage will decrease. “With handset refresh cycles, you look at 2019, and I think it’s an opportunity to move to an all-LTE network,” Ray said.

T-Mobile VoLTE service reached nationwide status in July 2014, and by the end of 2015, 40 percent of all calls being made on T-Mobile were being made with VoLTE. That number grew to 64 percent at the end of 2016 and is now at 70 percent, so there are definitely more customers using VoLTE. As more people upgrade to VoLTE-capable phones and T-Mo continues to improve its coverage, the percentage of VoLTE calls will continue to grow and certainly could get close to taking that final 30 percent in the next couple of years.

Ray also touched a bit more on T-Mobile’s recent efforts to promote its 2G network for machine-to-machine use. “We found a very cost-effective and low-taxing spectrum methodology to run GSM for more time,” he explained, with 2G operating in the edges of T-Mo’s LTE bands.

Source: PCMag

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  • Carlos Jimenez

    Well 2G is not in use anymore, but 3G or 4G HSPA+ how you want to call it, I use it when there is no LTE signal available in building, so I chose to shutdown 2G already.

    • Trevnerdio

      There’s still 2G running afoul in some areas…

      • a d00d

        TMo’s own map proves there are still areas with only GPRS/EDGE service. These are in areas supposedly already upgraded. They need to fix these before thinking about shutting it down in 3 years.

        As for WCDMA / HSPA+, it’s true there are a few countries where people are still using the older tech, but it’s getting more and more rare, mainly poorer ones or certain people that want to die with a particular phone and refuse to upgrade (this was a big problem with the AMPS shutdown as bag and car phones no longer worked and provided big power to reach distant towers in rural areas). The problem here locally is that there are places where the LTE signal peters out and the phone locks onto 3G or even 2G because the signal is stronger. This is a problem that needs to be fixed first before thinking about shutting down.

        Oh, and shutting down 3G will really piss off some M2M that bought 3G as a stop-gap instead of jumping from 2G to LTE. They WERE warned, but I don’t remember reading ANYWHERE about ANYONE wanting to shut down their 3G networks until TODAY! I personally figured at least 2026. This also applies to some rural carriers such as Smith-Bagley DBA Cellular One NE Arizona that upgraded to WCDMA rather than LTE, while CommNet serving the same area did a deal with the Navajo and the feds to deliver LTE in the same place. If the majors stop selling WCDMA-capable handsets, they’ll have to upgrade AGAIN and it will likely cost them more than doing it right the first time.

        (And pity the poor (literally) rural carriers who still sell only 2G such as NE Montana and NW N. Dakota who will be totally shut out shortly.)

  • SBacklin

    Id like to see an all LTE network. However, they got a lot of holes to fill. I’m not just talking about new coverage areas but in cities and areas with even B12 deployed. I’ve noticed network instability causing random LTE disconnects and such.

    Their wifi calling needs stabilizing. After 2-3 years it still has issues sending MMS and even SMS at times. I’ve had messages failed to send and random time stamps appear. I get a message at 430pm and yet it says I got it at 2am. Yeah, I like the fact they go for latest tech but they need to slow a bit and stabilize what they got. :-/

  • Clintoncrat_for_Palin

    Well they better stabilize it: I deactivate VoLTE because it mutes my phone calls.

    • Willie D

      Sounds like your device has an issue and not LTE inherently.

      • Clintoncrat_for_Palin

        3 different phones. It could be my area. Does it work fine for you and everyone you know?

    • Volker

      I deactivated mine because with it enabled, I drop calls on my way home from work once I hit a 2G only area. Doesn’t drop when the call is originally on 4G.

      • Clintoncrat_for_Palin

        Upvote. My experience too.

  • Willie D

    They should kill off 2G completely next year, and limit HSPA+ to 5-10Mhz total, and use the rest of PCS/AWS bands not in use by HSPA+ should be reused for LTE in CA configuration.

    • squiggleslash

      No, they should kill 3G completely and keep 2G. 2G GSM has tiny spectrum requirements and is extremely robust. It’s pretty much the definition of a reliable last-resort fall-back.

      3G has absolutely no advantages over LTE, and hogs spectrum and has never had the reliability of 2G GSM. There’s no need to keep it, it should be allowed to die.

      • Walt

        ^ this guy gets it. Ditch hspa use the spectrum for Lte and keep 2G just so older phones work. People then will be complaining about “slow” data and will upgrade to an Lte phone. 2G edge uses very little spectrum in the guard band

      • bkat11

        Not to correct you guys…but they already are refarming 3G on Band 2 for LTE…they have already completed most of it in all major cities they hold PCS spectrum for 3xCA

    • GreenMonkeyPants

      AT&T turned off 2G on Jan 1, 2017. Why wouldn’t T-Mo follow?

      • Tony

        T-Mobile gained the M2M revenue that AT&T lost on a network that at this point has very few dedicated resources.

        • GreenMonkeyPants

          I had forgotten about that. Makes sense now.

    • 2G in the guard bands of 3G is practically free, sharing the 5+5MHz spectrum with 3G. TMUS wouldn’t gain anything from shutting off 2G while letting 3G on. So the question is actually until when should 3G remain lit. In principle, TMUS might be able to afford reserving 5+5MHz of spectrum for 2G and 3G in most markets, but the answer is probably in the profitability of allocating spectrum to support older user equipment. Given that TMUS has the smallest amount of spectrum among the national carriers, I’m afraid that Ray is writing on the wall a decision that has already been made.

      • As a matter of fact, Ray said as much in Barcelona. He doesn’t want anything to do with 2G or 3G when T-Mobile moves to 5G. Since 93% of data goes through its LTE network, I doubt that the remaining 7% going through its 2G and 3G networks today would make business sense in 3 years.

  • mingkee

    T-Mobile should keep UMTS network for few years while some unlocked phones do not support VoLTE or LTE is not compatible in US. This is essential for the tourists.

    • Melissa Cardenas

      tourists dont use volte ,my family members from spain and mexico when they come visit me their phones roam on tmobile and At&t and get Lte on both carriers while roaming , but once they make a call their phone drops down to 3G hspa . Once they hang up they connect back to Lte. Tmobile and At&t only allows them to roam on Lte for data not for calls , calls go tru 3G.

  • Sure, once some of my calls stop dropping LTE for HSPA first before connecting the call I dialed. Not sure why some calls do that.

  • The Bogeyman

    If they shut down 3G they’ll break my android wear watch since it doesn’t support T-Mo’s LTE bands. At that point I’d have to switch to AT&T.

    • Aaron Rogers

      Sounds like time to get a new watch.

    • Mike

      Instead of getting a newer watch and dumping that old junky watch you rather switch to ATT? If so bye and get luck with the higher phone bill.

      • The Bogeyman

        Yeah, my old junky LG Urbane 2nd Edition. LOL

        • Mike

          I mean your the one who bought a watch with only 3G on it. 4G/LTE has been out for quite some time now.

        • The Bogeyman

          Maybe you should try using google before unleashing abject ignorance from your keyboard.

    • Ryan Carnes Ofs

      You realize AT&T will be doing the same right?

      • The Bogeyman

        My watch will work fine on AT&T’s LTE bands.

    • Melissa Cardenas

      well that sucks for you , my gear s3 frontier from tmo runs on their Lte bands so im good. I dont need to switch to Att just for a watch.

      • The Bogeyman

        Enjoy running all 4 of the apps that are available for Tizen.

        • Melissa Cardenas

          only app i care is the samsug one that counts your steps it comes in handy at the gym. And being able to text people tru there. Like i said it think its dumb to switch to At&t just for a watch haha .

    • wsj

      Why don’t you by a real watch.

    • yankeesusa

      Because it’s an older gen and this is new technology. In 2019 that watch will be over 3 years old. In tech years and smartwatch years that’s old.

  • maxwell brigenza

    So the new feature phones (like NOKIA 3310) will be supported by new network?

  • Walt

    Wow just wow! I love it. Shut down 3G/hspa first and use that spectrum for Lte. Keep 2G for a year longer so all the people with flip phones and hspa only phones still can use them but only on the 2G network untill they upgrade to an Lte device. 2G Edge uses a guard band so it uses very little spectrum but hspa can use 5/10mhz and that would be a nice add on for Lte

    • Matt

      I’m all for re-farming the HSPA spectrum to LTE. That would rock!!!

      • Tony

        that’s already being done.

  • I just wish their VoLTE implementation was a standard any manufacturer could use and be part of the Android OS vs the testing requirement it needs now. My Sony Z5 Compact works fine on their network, but I don’t have VoLTE support.

    • yankeesusa

      It’s better than before. Now it’s up to manufacturers to get it certified. Axon 7, oneplus, nexus, unlocked iPhones and some other unlocked non carrier phones do volte now, in fact, phones like oneplus 3 even do wifi calling.

  • Ouch! My car has a built in hotspot that allows its built in navigation system to use real time traffic information from Google to calculate routes. However, its radio is 3G only, compatible with the networks of both ATT and TMUS. There is no way that the manufacturer would upgrade the radio of a 2014 model in 2019. This bit of news makes my car sad…

    • Walt

      Just buy a new car :D

      • Hey, a car is not exactly in the same price range as a phone to be upgraded as often! :-D

        • Walt

          Can you just tethering your phone to the gps? I know it would be more of a pain but its doable

        • The way that most cars adopt connectivity is not very open.

          On my car, some extra features are only available for a ludicrous fee. So it’s not exactly cost friendly nor flexible, such as being able to tether to another device to perform its functions.

          Indeed, I’d rather mirror the screen of my phone on the car display. While the car system is well integrated with its controls, the phone apps are much more powerful and flexible.

    • Anthony S Jennings

      Keep an eye out for third-party suppliers to provide upgrade paths to older cars with various wireless technologies. It’s going to be a fair chunk of car customizations.

  • Kirkland

    The problem with VoLTE is it’s not reliable enough, sometimes I’m on call where i’m in a call and later on the caller can no longer hear me. Other times, when I’m in a call, I can no longer hear anyone. Just complete silence.

    I have to disable LTE during calls, to have a more stable call. My reception is full bars by the way, using iPhone 6s.

    • Ascertion

      I ran into this issue the other day while driving. I think it has something to do with hand-off from one site to another.

      • Tony

        probably congestion with the site’s back haul.

  • Whynot

    I keep waiting for them to upgrade the tower that we use from 2g. They say it is planned but have said that for over 2 years. They still have a lot of upgrades to do for this to work

    • Walt

      What area/zip code?

      • Whynot

        98675

  • Mike

    Hopefully between then and now they can work on getting consistent coverage in the suburban Philadelphia, pa area. 0.6 Mbps down and 0.2 up on TMO fastest nationwide 4glte network.

    • Matt

      I’m in suburban Philly and my speeds are consistently good.

    • taron19119

      I get 20 Mbps in Jenkintown pa

      • FILA

        Goldbergs

        • taron19119

          What

        • Mike Thaler

          Might have been an attempt at a racist slur

        • thepanttherlady

          “This ABC show takes place in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania in the 1980s and follows the lives of a family named The Goldbergs.

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2712740/

    • BreakingData

      Outside of the Comcast building in Philly I get consistent speeds. But it has been about 3-4 months since I have visited.

  • Paul Garrison

    How about stabilizing the current network.

    • Walt

      Nah i will take free pizza and movies. Thats more important than coverage and a stable network. Lol jk

  • Alex Zapata

    If they’re gonna do this then device manufacturers are going to need to build in VoLTE/VoWIFI/RCS etc….other wise calls will end up failing or dropping down to 2G.

  • Walt

    Metro Pcs just dropped a 2 for $80 unlimited data plan

    • Andrew Leonard

      No tethering.

      • Walt

        And 480p binge on mandatory. No thanks lol

        • mavricxx

          You can’t even tell the difference on 480p unless you go to a tablet or Laptop. Plus you can BINGE and it won’t count towards your data cap!

  • SirStephenH

    Not soon enough.

  • MindFog2287

    Here on Long Island, I’ve never had a complaint about T-Mobile service. It’s always super fast, responsive. A+. I went to San Francisco for a week, and what a nightmare. How is it possible that in a major city in the US service on a major network can be so terrible? So many places I went, I had full bars but data was virtually unusable for some reason.

    • marque2

      TMo has trouble in hilly areas and areas with valleys. Not surprised you are having some trouble in SF. San Diego county is mostly valleys and in some parts, especially closer to the coast reception is sketch. Even at my home in Poway, which is in a valley, it can be difficult to get reception, but I have to say it is improving.

      • MindFog2287

        I’m just curious why I’d have full bars and unresponsive service though. When I was in Marin, there were areas of no coverage or poor coverage, which I understand. But when I’m in the city with full bars and can’t access my email or Facebook or whatnot, I just don’t get that. Is the network just way too congested?

        • Dan

          It’s due to network congestion. When I was in SF I called customer service to complain about the same thing and they told me to turn off LTE to help as the network tends to get overloaded there.

        • MindFog2287

          Classic. Well, perhaps before they move to an all-LTE network, they might want to make sure their network functions in a MAJOR CITY.

          I should have thought to turn off LTE. Makes sense.

          Come on, T-Mo. You’re better than this. Your service HAS to work in a major tech hub.

          People I was staying with said many of them use Verizon out there because for some reason it’s still regarded as the “premium” service.

          Just shows T-Mo still has work to do.

  • Glenn Gore

    A year ago T-Mobile upgraded their 2G/EDGE site here straight to LTE with no 3G/”4G” on it at all, putting out around 35 Mbps. Then they came back a few months later and upped the data rate on the site and it now puts out 80 Mbps, the fastest speed of any carrier here. This is a small town/rural area, too, and they have done the same upgrades on a lot of their other sites in other towns. Excellent work, T-Mobile!