Editorial: Why T-Mobile Should And Will Deploy LTE (The Technical Edition)

In the comments of the article about the analyst positing $9 billion for LTE deployment, many people were puzzled on why everyone is so focused on T-Mobile needing to deploy LTE. The obvious marketing answer is that everyone else has it, so T-Mobile needs to be competitive and deploy it to be able to say that they’ve got it too. By itself, that is an incredibly stupid reason to spend billions of dollars to deploy and maintain a brand new network.

However, there are very real and important reasons for deploying LTE. Before I get to that, a little history is needed to understand one very important thing: the Americas spectrum configuration was never optimal for the way we use mobile technology today.

The problem that caused this is rooted in how the first cellular networks were set up. The United States had the first cellular network in the world, and so the FCC had no precedent at the time to set up frequencies. They had to work with what they had and what they knew. And what they had was 850MHz, now known as the Cellular band (sometimes notated as CLR or Cell). What they knew was that mobile phone technology at the time only supported calls, and required large blocks to minimize interference. The Cellular band ran the first fully standardized analog cellular network, AMPS (developed by Bell Labs and Motorola). The licenses for the Cellular band were essentially handed out to two companies in each market, an “A” company and a “B” company (as the FCC called them, in reference to the 25MHz A block and 25MHz B block licenses). Over the years, the cellular market remained largely confined to the business elite because prices were really high back then. We’re talking thousands of dollars for a cellphone that could just barely make calls.

Over time, these companies partnered together and later merged together to form larger companies. With the exception of SunCom (which merged into T-Mobile USA) and several other smaller rural network operators, nearly all of those operators merged into the behemoths known as AT&T Mobility, LLC (which goes by AT&T) and Cellco Partnership, Inc. (which does business as Verizon Wireless).

A quick note: In 1990, all the European network operators finished developing the unified TDMA-based digital standard GSM to upgrade their disparate and incompatible analog networks to. It was published and they quickly migrated to GSM over the next few years. Around the same time, the European Union formally came into existence.

In 1996, Congress revised the 1934 Telecommunications Act to give the FCC broad powers on radio licensing and auctions to improve competition in the cellular phone industry (which had been full of corruption and collusion). The result was the first frequency band auction in the United States for the Personal Communication Service band, or PCS band for short. PCS had the mandate that only digital cellular networks could be run on the band. As a result, Motorola and Qualcomm each began developing digital technologies. Motorola’s efforts resulted in D-AMPS. That system is what Americans and Canadians colloquially referred to as TDMA. Qualcomm’s efforts, spurred on by the declassification of the CDMA air technology by the American military and with assistance from the military in developing the solution, led to the development of cdmaOne. This standard would later be finalized as CDMA2000. PCS was divided into several 10MHz and 20MHz spectrum blocks, as it was felt that the emerging digital cellular systems could use spectrum more efficiently and not all companies would be able to afford large 20MHz blocks of PCS. The incumbents at the time (A and B operators), as well as new entrants eagerly bid for new spectrum. The bulk of it went to telecommunications incumbents with Cellular band spectrum, but some new telecom companies got it too. This set the framework for future spectrum auctions. The companies that later became T-Mobile USA obviously participated in this auction.

Another quick note: In 2001, NTT DoCoMo took the CDMA2000 technology that Qualcomm developed, improved the technology, and refined it to become the W-CDMA technology. W-CDMA became the basis for the 3G GSM standard (later named the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, or UMTS for short). UMTS evolved over the years to become UMTS HSPA+. European and Asian network operators would purchase large 60-80MHz chunks of spectrum in auctions designed similarly to the one done by the FCC to operate UMTS. This Euro/Asian-centric band planning was kept in mind when DoCoMo developed W-CDMA, and when the first few releases of the UMTS standard came out after the initial release. It wasn’t until much later, with release 5, that they started working on optimizing for smaller blocks.

Fast forward to 2003, the FCC realized that there was a problem when they were preparing Section 1 of the Advanced Wireless Services band (AWS-1 band for short) for auction. They wanted to design a new band that was as close to the European bands as possible, but the spectrum was currently being used by satellite cable and military operations. Unfortunately, it was the only band they could take spectrum from, since the planning stages for the switchover to digital TV hadn’t even been finalized yet! And since satellite cable was failing in the market, the military remained the only problem. By 2006, they worked out a band block plan (similar to the band block plan for PCS) and a framework to migrate the military off with the cooperation of the Department of Defense. In 2005, they announced the auction that would be taking place in 2006. Deutsche Telekom (having owned T-Mobile USA for only five years now) announced that they would be buying nationwide licenses for AWS-1 in the auction. Needless to say, they did. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get all of what they wanted. In several regions, they only acquired 10MHz of spectrum, particularly in areas that Verizon and U.S. Cellular outbid them.

In any case, T-Mobile USA and Deutsche Telekom immediately began soliciting vendors to prepare AWS equipment for their 3G network in 2007. By 2008, the first AWS 3G devices arrived and network deployment began. Unfortunately for all of us, the economic downturn hit us hard and slowed down T-Mobile’s deployment of AWS 3G. They made up for this in 2009 by deploying the very latest 3G technology, HSPA 3.6 and then upgrading it to HSPA 7.2 later in the year.

Yet another quick note: In late 2008, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (the group that handles standardization of new UMTS technology) approved the initial standards for 3GPP Long Term Evolution for the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, or UMTS LTE for short, for UMTS Release 8 alongside single carrier and dual-carrier HSPA+. UMTS HSPA+ and UMTS LTE are improved and standardized together from this point onward.

In 2010, T-Mobile began deploying single carrier HSPA+ across the nation, and in 2011 deployed dual carrier HSPA+. They took advantage of their late-to-the-game status and managed to get highly efficient equipment for much cheaper, with support for easily bolting on LTE. While in the planning stages for the deployment plans for HSPA+, it was discovered that their AWS assets would not be sufficient for nationwide deployment at the highest level. However, they did discover that with judicious reshuffling of network banding and refarming of their PCS spectrum, they could deploy at least dual-carrier HSPA+ across the entire nation, with some markets having quad-carrier HSPA+. More importantly, they could also deploy LTE in areas where they are weak spectrally and aggregate the connection with HSPA+ to boost speeds even further.

So T-Mobile developed a plan: they would deploy as far as they could with AWS for HSPA+, and when it came time to refarm PCS for 4G, they would deploy HSPA+ on PCS zones where they had 30MHz or more spectrum and LTE on unused 10MHz AWS zones. If AWS was currently in use, they would deploy HSPA+ on PCS and leave room for LTE and GSM. They could do other configurations as needed. The added benefit was that if they prepared for it right, they could reduce their overall costs by a huge percentage!

At this point in time, T-Mobile is just now refarming PCS spectrum. In a majority of the markets where T-Mobile has both PCS and AWS spectrum with no AWS used, it is quite likely that they will deploy HSPA+ only on PCS because most of the remaining markets only have 10MHz of AWS and 30MHz or more of PCS. AWS will likely be reserved for LTE in these areas. In areas where they’ve got plenty of AWS spectrum and they’re using it for HSPA+, they’ll dedicate about 10MHz of PCS to GSM and 10MHz to HSPA+. If they have 20MHz of PCS or less in a market with lots of AWS, there will be no deployment of HSPA+ on the band, but there will be scaling back of GSM to 10MHz to prepare for LTE.

T-Mobile will deploy LTE. They have to eventually. The main reason for it is because they need the spectral optimization that LTE offers. When LTE was being designed, they kept in mind that American cellular network operators were desperate for a new, more optimized system that could handle their tighter spectral constraints. They made it possible for LTE to deployed in 1.4MHz, 5MHz, 10MHz, and 20MHz band configurations. Even in 5MHz deployment, LTE can offer comparable average speeds to dual-carrier HSPA+ with the appropriate backhaul and efficient core network.

Another reason for it is network aggregation. LTE will eventually support aggregating HSPA+ and LTE together to make faster, more efficient connections to the network and to the Internet. With aggregating HSPA+ and LTE together, they could make it possible to get 100Mbps with a latency of 60ms on average on a mobile device without LTE-Advanced. With deploying LTE-Advanced, they could go even further!

Finally, each LTE cell can support three to four times as many heavy usage subscribers as an HSPA cell. That is a substantial capacity improvement over HSPA+. This is because LTE is an OFDMA based technology, and explicitly uses MIMO to carry more connections at once. If T-Mobile plans to support the entire country with their network, they’ll need the capacity gains assuming each person has one smartphone, one tablet, and one hotspot connected to five devices. For 300 million people, that would require a lot of capacity. While their HSPA+ network is capable of supporting everyone, there would be some speed decreases and latency increases. A hybrid LTE/HSPA+ network promises to actually offer higher speeds than HSPA+ alone, lower latencies than HSPA+ alone, and support even more people with their current spectral assets.

Right now, they are playing the waiting game. Doing so is smart, because the costs for deploying the equipment needed to support LTE on AWS and PCS are quickly coming down with MetroPCS, Leap Wireless, AT&T, and eventually Verizon Wireless deploying on that band. Additionally, if they do partner with DISH Network to use their S-band spectrum, they’ll want to make sure the equipment they buy supports it.

Finally, we have to note that T-Mobile USA has been preparing for LTE on their core network and backend infrastructure for over two years now. Their UMA implementation became the basis of the VoLGA standard that Deutsche Telekom wanted to use for all T-Mobile LTE networks across the world. However, none of the other operators wanted to use the technology, so Deutsche Telekom relented and switched their support to the more expensive IMS based technology. Consequently, T-Mobile USA deployed all the necessary components to run IMS on their core network and made a new Wi-Fi Calling solution that uses it. As far as we know, they are the first in the world to commercially deploy IMS for voice, SMS, MMS, and other circuit-switched services. It would be trivial for T-Mobile to change the client software to make it run over LTE or HSPA+. By preparing all the core network and backend infrastructure for LTE this far ahead, their nationwide LTE deployment costs will much lower.

I seriously doubt it will cost $9 billion unless Deutsche Telekom wants to buy more spectrum to use for LTE. For now, though, they don’t really need to. As long as they are smart about how they use their spectrum, they can hold off acquiring more spectrum for a few more years.

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  • Jon

    Well written article Conan. All the cellular providers are always thinking long term so it is only natural that T-Mobile do the same LTE looks to be the standard which is preferred over Wimax which doesn’t seem strong enough to penetrate buildings leading to weaker signal strength. I’m no expert but it is going to be interesting to see what steps T-Mobile USA take towards building their own LTE network. I think they will do well after I have no complaints about their HSPA network.

    • WiMAX differs from LTE in the air interface only in the respect that it doesn’t support paired frequency bands. Like LTE, it is based on OFDMA (MIMO) technology. There’s not too much different between LTE and WiMAX on propagation. The reason why WiMAX sucks so bad on propagation in the USA is because WiMAX is deployed at 2.5GHz. Above 2GHz, the range of each cell can be measured in tens of meters, maxing out (if you’re lucky) at a few hundred meters.

      • Anonymous

        “The reason why WiMAX sucks so bad on propagation in the USA is because WiMAX is deployed at 2.5GHz. Above 2GHz, the range of each cell can be measured in tens of meters, maxing out (if you’re lucky) at a few hundred meters.”

        Come on, Conan, I know from your previous posts that you are more technically astute than this.  Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX has been a disappointment.  But to blame it all on BRS/EBS 2500-2600 MHz propagation is an exaggeration.  And your >2 GHz cell radius figures in the tens to hundreds of meters are well short of reality.

        To illustrate, the free space path loss for 2500 MHz is only 1.51 dB greater than it is for 2100 MHz.  If path loss were the only reason why Clear WiMAX 2500-2600 has provided poor coverage in many markets, then the downlink of T-Mobile W-CDMA 2100+1700 should be similarly affected.  But reality does not exactly bear that out.

        Instead, Clear WiMAX 2500-2600 performance has been lacking for a combination of several reasons:

        1. 2500-2600 MHz path loss.  Yes, it is part of the problem, just not the whole enchilada.
        2. Lack of coordination.  Clearwire and Sprint chose cell site locations separately, and that has lead to inconsistencies between 4G and 3G footprints.
        3. Insufficient buildout.  Clear site density in many markets is less than that of Sprint CDMA1X 1900 network.
        4. Cell site co-location disadvantages.  Clear antennas are oft the low man on the totem pole and lack much spatial diversity among panels.
        5. Backhaul and/or throttling.  Backhaul to some sites has been insufficient, and Clear has long throttled the WiMAX uplink to 1.5 Mbps or less.
        6. Device configuration.  Some hybrid 4G/3G devices are configured to eschew WiMAX and/or fall back to EV-DO at excessively conservative WiMAX RSSI and C/I levels.

        Had Sprint/Clearwire been able to better address these issues, the WiMAX 2500-2600 network would be far more satisfactory.  Instead, not much change is likely, and LTE 800/1900/2500-2600 is the path forward.


        • I’m sorry. I was tired. I’d been researching LTE for ten or so hours prior and I had just finished hammering out this article too… 

          The simplest, most visible problem is the spectrum propagation. But, you are correct that there are other problems. 

          The second major issue was there was absolutely ZERO planning when they actually deployed WiMAX. Originally, Clearwire wanted to deploy WiMAX independently of Sprint’s network of cell sites in order to make sure that they could become independent of Sprint if they became really successful. It backfired on them, as we all know. If anything, they’re leaning on them more heavily. Without Sprint’s planning and expertise on how to deploy cellular networks (Sprint-Nextel has deployed AMPS, 2G GSM, cdmaOne, CDMA2000, iDEN, and HSPA+ over the course of its existence, so they definitely know their stuff), they didn’t know exactly how to do it. So, what would any sane company preparing to deploy an expensive network that they had no knowledge of do? Hire someone else to manage it all! But no, they had the stupid idea of actually doing all the work themselves instead of hiring a third party to do the cell planning, deployment, and management of the network. This led to the horrible layout of WiMAX on all markets and general terrible WiMAX performance. CLEAR (their former retail brand) suffered quite a lot for it, and they have the reputation of being morons who can’t do anything right and charge too much for crappy service.

          Sprint-Nextel, after seeing the mess Clearwire made of everything, knew that they needed to make sure their phones safely switched away from WiMAX before their subscribers noticed how bad it was. Thus, Sprint ordered OEMs to make their 4G devices preemptively switch back to EV-DO when the signal weakened to a certain threshold. Hence, the conservative fallback values.

          Backhaul has always been a weakness of both Sprint-Nextel and Clearwire, but Clearwire really took a hit for how little backhaul was hooked up in many major markets. Both Clearwire and Sprint-Nextel rely heavily on microwave backhaul and Clearwire didn’t allocate nearly enough. They had to throttle and set max connection limits to ensure the experience didn’t turn to crap immediately. Needless to say, it didn’t help at all.

          Back in May, Clearwire finally laid off their internal staff managing the network and outsourced all of the work to Ericsson. The result? The network was better than it ever was at any earlier time in its existence in September. The fundamental problems couldn’t be fixed, but Ericsson attempted to mitigate some of the problems with varying degrees of success.

          Does this sound like a satisfactory answer for you, WiWavelength?

        • Anonymous

          Yes, that is an excellent response.  If all of your info is accurate, then it educates me on some interesting facets of the Sprint/Clearwire relationship that I did not know.  Thank you.


        • Anonymous

          Also, as a follow up, I would like to offer some clarifications to the historical background portion of your editorial.  If you do not mind, I will comment on that tomorrow.


  • Jon

    Well written article Conan. All the cellular providers are always thinking long term so it is only natural that T-Mobile do the same LTE looks to be the standard which is preferred over Wimax which doesn’t seem strong enough to penetrate buildings leading to weaker signal strength. I’m no expert but it is going to be interesting to see what steps T-Mobile USA take towards building their own LTE network. I think they will do well after I have no complaints about their HSPA network.

  • heu

    Tmobile should not build lte because it is ~hspa+. Tmo should wait for the real 4g and let others waste money on lte

    • Agreed. There is no point in wasting their loot on that. They have fast speeds already, save the money.

    • Gsm1900

      LTE brings low latency and fast upload speed. You could be downloading at 30MB on TMO’s network and your upload is at best like 2MB. LTE needs to happen for not just this, but because it does a much better job at using spectrum than HSPA+ does.

  • until operators give me 100GB of data to play with I couldn’t care less about how fast LTE speeds are. 10mb/s HSPA+ is more then adequate speed for 99.999% of people for the next 5 years, probably more. 

    Look at the cable modem speed progression. Back in 1999 when I got my first broadband connection I got 3mb/s down speed, now 12 years later I’m getting 6mb/s and I’m completely contempt with that.

    all this talk about us needing 100mb/s speeds on our mobile device is absurd…

    • Keep in mind that streaming 24Mbps HD video in real-time alongside other Internet tasks is nearly impossible to do without 100Mbps connections. Eventually, TV services will be provided over mobile networks instead of dedicated airwaves because it will be cheaper to do so. TVs will have dedicated modules that will let people choose the wireless provider and the channel selection they wish to pay for.

      • Anonymous

        I agree… at the rate the world is moving by, anyone who is “happy enough with hspa+” is being foolish. I was happy with dsl speeds years ago… but they are nowhere near sufficient for me any longer. Power comsumption issues on lte will be fixed and is hardily an arguement when other carriers lte/wimax phones found ways to actually have better battery life than tmo phones. Look at the epic 4g touch. I don’t know how they optimized it, but that thing has better battery life than the tmo galaxy s 2. LTE is the natural succession, and even though hspa+ is better optimized at the moment, you HAVE to consider the future.

        • Jarrod

          probably because they have upwards of 2000mili amp batteries and on top of that they are probably turning off the 4G when they aren’t using it.


    all wireless carriers should pool their resources and build out an LTE network like the national power grid.

    all power companies interconnect and it’s very successful.

    wireless companies should do the same.

    handset, tablet and aircard manufacturers should jump on board as well.

    that’s how the german army had such astonishing successes in the beginning the second world war everything was standardized.

    that would be too easy except corporate executives’ egos would never let this happen.

    let’s see who pulls out their checkbook now that the evil empire got spanked.

    • Network sharing is quite common everywhere in the world except the United States. Network sharing agreements simply haven’t been done here before, as far as I can recall.

  • Zzzzzzzzz

    • MK Terra

      That’s cold, man.  I found the article very informative.

      • That’s cool, glad you did.  I didn’t…and wasted a lil bit of my day reading it.  To each his own…Glad you like it.

        • Realcool2000

          Lol. How did it waste your day, when YOU chose to read it and YOU learned something.

        • Find someone else to bother, thanks.

        • Fatassodeen

          How bout you find some other way to “waste” your day

  • Going_home

    See thats why I like this site.
    Very good article !


  • Havoktek

    I’m all over this…on Christmas eve..why cause I’m playing with my daughters soon to be springboard (she’s not here and were done wrapping)

    You can’t have beef about TMO if you don’t know where we came from or where the industry stands. We as consumers owe it to ourselves to be enlightened, educated and pleasantly surprise by our carrier…No sense in posting on things you don’t know about. So I welcome and appreciate this article and stand behind TMO cause now…………we got money………which I think was the plan from the start……Let’s build and make no more excuses…It’s almost 2012 for Pete’s sake, give us floating cars or give us bandwidth!

  • Luis G

    GREAT!!!!!! article guys, very well explained. I am glad to be a regular reader. Keep up the good work.

  • hats off for such an amazing article. 

  • James Hammond

    They should spend their money on expanding their coverage of ‘any’ signal, be at 1g or 4g or 1453g.

    What good is the speed of the technology if there isn’t any signal at all.

    All the US companies are deploying LTE without voice,  so if you have a data connection, you might not have a voice connection (or txt).

    • Chatter

      Agree with your first point on expanding coverage. As for the EU comment, it discusses when the EU formally came into existence. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993.

  • Habbit

    I could give two shits about 4G. I’m just pissed that I’m in the middle of the nowhere right now visiting family and there is zero coverage in this area while AT&T and Verizon have full coverage and Sprint has moderate coverage. If they would expand even just their 2G network to include these country ass towns and even highways (spotty reception) I would consider staying with them. Unfortunately they just want to focus on bringing faster speeds to places that already have fast enough speeds.

    • Oreo

      You do know you can set your phone to roam on At&t 2G network.

      • Ab1555

        umm you also do know that by the end of the year because of the tmobile att fall out that tmobile will have the largest calling network in the nation due to the 3 billion in spectrum tmobile is receiving. please do all of us a favor and keep up on your news habbit.

        • Ilyas_k15

          And you should get your facts straight buddy. T-Mobile will be getting $1B worth of spectrum, and Deutsche Telecom will be getting $3B cash. Not the other way around

        • Habbit

          You should work on not being an idiot.

      • Anonymous

        I unlocked my GS2 this week and was unable to force my phone onto ATT where their service was better because there was still some TMO reception. I work in a basement that had an ATT signal repeater.

        • The new roaming agreements don’t take effect until next year. The old terms for 2G AT&T roaming expire at the end of this year. 3G AT&T roaming is not available until next year, because the new roaming agreements don’t activate until next year.

        • Oreo

          I hope you tried just setting your phone on GSM and to have roaming checked. Then you go to network operators, and manually search for networks. If At&t isn’t showing up its probably, because At&t doesn’t have 2G there. More than likely they have 3G there especially if there is a repeater as most repeaters support At&t 3G connection.

        • Anonymous

          Oooooh that is a very useful piece of info I didn’t think of! Ill try again this week and you are probably right.

      • Habbit

        Unable to connect, don’t know why.

    • Desertbears

      True, I travel in the Northern & Western US & there is many places where there is even no AT&T to roam on, just some carrier I have never heard of.

  • Honestly I don’t care about LTE as long as I can get the same speeds who really cares. Now there is only one thing I do like about LTE. That is, the fact that LTE requires sim cards. Today we can easily take an AT&T unlocked phone and bring it to T-Mobile USA by just swapping the sim cards. Now if LTE brings this kind of interoperability with all USA carriers then I’m all up for it. With this I get more choice, and will be able to bring any phone to any carrier even if the carrier doesn’t offer it officially.

    Anyone with me?

    • Anonymous

      ATT LTE devices can’t roam in VZW LTE and vise versa.

  • Excellent, well thought out article.  Thank you,,

    • Anonymous

      Definitely well researched article. Thanks!

      A gem of info in the usual sea of how XX carrier sucks junk.

  • Curious George

    I have the option of switching to AT&T or staying with T-mobile because my contract is up. What do you all think I should do?

    • Anonymous

      that depends on what you want. Do you care what you pay monthly? Is your coverage better or worse with Tmobile. Does AT&T have a phone you really really really want?

      My Tmobile coverage in South Florida tends to be better than what we had with AT&T, or what my partner’s parents currently get (lots of huhs and whats).

      I stay with Tmobile because we pay less overall per month (total bill would be about $20 more with AT&T wireless), no data overages, free wifi calling without using shared minutes, more shared minutes for less money and of course because it’s not AT&T

    • I personally suggest staying with T-Mobile. In January or February, T-Mobile customers will get full roaming access on the AT&T 2G and 3G networks. So, being a T-Mobile customer means getting the full benefit of both networks is possible. Additionally, with the failed deal out of the way, expect T-Mobile to show us some truly amazing things this year. They are participating in CES, so I expect them to announce their HSPA+84 and PCS HSPA+ plans then. They might even surprise us with public LTE plans too!

      If you want to get a new phone at this time, I’d suggest the Galaxy S II or the Amaze 4G. If you can wait a little bit, then you can appropriately decide on whether to hold out for new phones or pick up the aforementioned phones.

      • Straightbent

        Do you think T-mobile gets the iphone this year? I thought that AT&T would block that once the takeover ensued as to do everything they could to destroy T-mobile from the inside.

        • I certainly think that it is very likely T-Mobile will receive the iPhone this year. Apple already has to add the AWS band for AT&T LTE, they’ll almost certainly add it in for CDMA2000 and the HSPA+ because it will be cheaper and easier to do so with their multi-mode antenna design.

        • I agree.  Especially since Apple was testing an AWS version running on
          T-Mobile for at least a year as a prototype.  I personally think the
          only reason we didn’t get the iPhone this time was because of the
          uncertainty of the possible merger which is thankfully out of the way. 

        • What’s probably making this take longer is the fact that people aren’t clamoring all the time for a T-Mobile iPhone like they were for a Verizon one. If lots of people clamored, we’re likely to see Apple approach T-Mobile with a good deal. As T-Mobile has said in the past, the ball is in Apple’s court.

        • Anonymous

          Doubtful about T-Mobile getting the iPhone that soon.  There were hints leading up to the Verizon iPhone launch MONTHS before it released in February.  From manufacturing, to CDMA support in the OS.

        • We’ve known Apple has been testing AWS HSPA+ on the iPhone since April (and that prototype has likely been in use for at least a year). That’s plenty of time to turn around and release a T-Mobile iPhone in February.

        • Anonymous

          I saw that prototype on BGR but then nothing came of it.  Did it come down to a lack of a financial distribution deal from T-Mobile?  Or is it more of a technical reason with Apple wanting to create one device that supports CDMA plus Tmo AWS instead of a separate device that supports AWS?

        • It probably is a bit of both. I suspect that the prototype was GSM only, and they wanted to wait for production costs to come down a little before adding AWS. 

          You also have to remember that the iPhone 4S is a tri-mode cellular device. It supports GSM, UMTS/HSPA+, and CDMA2000. AWS is used for both HSPA+ and CDMA2000, so the cost of adding the new components needed to support AWS on HSPA+ and CDMA2000 may be easier to swallow if it adds support for two network technologies.

          Potentially, the next iPhone could also include support for AT&T, VZW, Sprint, European, and Asian LTE. That will inflate the cost considerably, and it will require adding several more frequency bands to the device, as nearly ten frequency bands would be required for LTE alone. Two of those bands are guaranteed to be AWS and PCS. AT&T and C Spire use AWS, and Sprint uses PCS for LTE. Then there’s the three split 700MHz bands used by Verizon, AT&T, and C Spire. Additionally, you have the 800/1800/2600 band triplet used in Europe, the 850/1800/2100 band triplet used in Asia. And those are just the major bands. LTE is going to be messy.

        • Keith Stevens

          Um NOT… Apple has already turned down T-mo. T-Mo has screwed post pay customers for a while now. They keep concentrating on pre pay. T-Mo is turning into a boost or virgin mobile company. and I quote “Earnings improved as we continued to focus on making smartphones affordable to all Americans through our unlimited Value plans, improvements to our 4G network, and an expanding portfolio of 4G devices,” T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm said in a statement. “Discipline on the cost side contributed to year-on- year margin improvement, while postpay churn, in particular related to the iPhone 4S launches by competitors, will continue to be an area of concern”. 
          “The iPhone’s absence on T-Mobile is due in large part to the carrier’s network technology, which while being the same GSM standard used in the rest of the world, runs on different frequency bands from most other GSM carriers. Consequently, Apple would have to develop modified hardware to support T-Mobile’s network, something the company has so far declined to do on more than a prototype basis. 

        • you mad bro? lol

        • Zach Gabelein

          Although they decided to do that for Verizon last year. So why wouldn’t they offer it to T-Mobile now that they know it will not become AT&T. They added a whole second iPhone 4 with a whole new antenna to support Verizon. Even then, with Verizon’s 3G packed so full of subscribers causing their 3G to be horrible slow. Apple still saw it as a gain to their own profits. 

          If the FCC said no to AT&T buying T-Mobile, then how would they let anyone else buy it, I mean Sprint barely has the power to buy T-Mobile. There two completely different networks with their CDMA-EVDO and GSM. It is just not a wise transaction for sprint. The only other option I could possible think of would be a worldwide carrier like DoCoMo to buy out T-Mobile. They use WCDMA and GSM. 

          T-Mobile doesn’t rely on it’s parent company as much as it use to. Most of it’s costs to run come from it’s profits. DT has not given T-Mobile USA money for years now. They are still in the top 4 carriers in this country and if DT really wants to get rid of T-Mobile it would be unwise as a Cooperation. Who’s to know they want to continue to try to sell T-Mobile. It cost money just to find another company to sell it for. If they wanted to decrease debt they would be wise in continuing with T-Mobile and allowing T-Mobile to advance on it’s own. It apparently is capable of releasing LTE in 2012 or 2013 and if that network can be higher that what their HSPA+42 network offers then they will already be higher than what Verizon LTE has to offer now. 

          I personally switched to the HTC Rezound on Verizon and live in the Puget Sound (Seattle area) and get an average of 10 to 20 Megs. But they have already had 3 network failures nation wide this month alone. Let alone their 3G I get about .33megs That is terrible speeds compared to T-MO 3G. So far the 2 months I have been on Verizon, I am very unhappy with switching. I for sure will be back with T-Mobile asap. 

          The people that leave T-Mobile are for the iPhone. Other than that from experience in an area where they don’t really have complete coverage on any network, T-Mobile is still by far faster than the rest. Being as Apple is a worldwide cooperation it is likely enough to offer the iPhone to T-Mobile again. Even when just 4 years ago iPhone was an AT&T exclusive phone and now it’s on 3 of the top 4 carriers. Apple might have expected the deal to go through just the like the majority, but whose to say they didn’t plan for it to fall through, not you. 

      • Anonymous

        Are you sure about the 2G roaming?  Wouldn’t that mean T-Mobile customers would have access to at&t’s 850mhz band when indoors instantly solving their indoor signal penetration problems?  This is the first I’m hearing of this.

        • T-Mobile phones would have access to AT&T’s 850MHz band on 2G. A few would even support it on 3G too. Off the top of my head, the Galaxy S II, the Amaze 4G, the CLIQ 2, and the DEFY support 3G on 850MHz.

        • Desertbears

          And the GSM Galaxy Nexus :-)

        • Ahh yes… We can’t forget the totally awesome HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus!

  • I actually think this is one of the best articles I have read on this website and I’ve been following for years. The information given is clearly explained and it’s nearly impossible to find nice a well-put “story” if you will about the spectrum grab like this one.

  • Realcool2000

    Wow. Great article Conan. Thanks for the info.

  • Rell

    I do wonder how many jobs this will create? I’m guessing over 20k maybe 30.

    • Over the next five or so years, probably. Maybe even more jobs, when you consider that they also need to take down old equipment and replace it too. More hands makes things go faster when properly done!

      • Blank21

        Will be mostly contract work. Doesn’t take much to change out hardware and its usually completed in a hour or 2.

        • Keith Stevens

          Thats why I was saying 20k jobs was ridiculous. considering they only employ 42000 for the whole company. Try like maybe a thousand jobs. Sorry Conan but your agreement with the 20 or 30k jobs makes me wonder about your “forward thinking” statement about t-mo doing everything in your write up. Great article about tech… but I just disagree with t-mo doing it. 

        • Over five years, not immediately. And I never said that those jobs would last more than a few days or weeks each.

    • Keith Stevens

      Wow… talk about a far reaching statement. If that happens I will pay your T_Mo bill for a year… talk about rediculous.

  • B-TownTmobileGuy

    Very nice post, really informative and nailed it on the head!

  • Guest

    staying wit too is a suckers play now. vow doubled their data rate for the near term. 4g for $30. later tmo. its cheaper to buy a refurnished phone pay the early termination fee and gets network that works!

    How can you make a bold faced argument for let when you blasted it months ago before too entertained its deployment?

    THis ks a farce!

    Plankton is laughing all the way to the bank!!

    • Tmo

      pass the vodka baby! Merry Kwanza!

    • I never blasted T-Mobile for their decisions regarding 4G. I knew what was up and I understood what was going on.

  • ItsMichaelNotMike

    Nice forward-looking article, but it is not going to happen.

    Fact is that in 2008-09 Deutsche Telekom started looking to unload TMOUS because it was becoming a costly and low-performing investment (remember, in year 2000 Deutsche Telekom paid $63 billion — in 2011 dollars — to enter the then-attractive U. S. wireless market). Now things are even worse.

    This failed deal significantly damaged TMOUS. (Notwithstanding Deutsche Telekom principals’ puffing, that were really horribly vague interviews and wish-washy statements (e.g., using the word “chance” in a statement about TMOUS future).

    As I said before, AT&T’s $39 billion offer was equivalent to Deutsche Telekom winning the lottery, it was DT’s Christmas miracle. And when first announced everyone thought this deal was in the bag; including Deutsche Telekom who misbehaved badly in the coming months, much like someone who has cashed the check, that’s not in hand.  Even after the DOJ sued, Deutsche Telekom exhibited a cavalier attitude to its customers, vendors, and competition.

    Thinking that Deutsche Telekom in 2012 will make a go of investing in TMOUS infrastructure and spectrum is as misguided as thinking (for the past four years and counting that TMOUS will get the iPhone. (I am not sure if it is amusing or sad that for four years people in here have been announcing

    Bottom line:

    – TMOUS lacks necessary infrastructure and spectrum needed for it compete;

    – Deutsche Telekom is without a viable plan for TMOUS going forward in 2012;

    – Deutsche Telekom in Europe is in the sewers of Paris. It won’t throw good money after bad, as the saying goes, investing billions into TMOUS infrastructure improvements. (To be sure, if that was DT’s intent Company principals would have announced the $3 billion was being put
    back into TMOUS, not wired to Germany.)

    – IMO Deutsche Telekom will spend most of 2012 trying to sell off TMOUS “as-is” or in parts (I agree with the bulk of Germany-located financial analysts that DT will “strip mine” (my term) TMOUS, aka part it out and sell the pieces. If it sells TMOUS it will retain an investment interest.

    • You are making the fatal assumption that Deutsche Telekom needs to put money into T-Mobile USA for it to push through its plans. T-Mobile USA has several options to raise funds if they can’t rely on their parent company. And indeed, they’ve not relied on Deutsche Telekom for much since 2007. Deutsche Telekom prefers it to be that way while they attempt to sort out the legal (and financially-draining) mess they are in with their European operations. Plus, T-Mobile USA is the best performing unit of T-Mobile International, so they aren’t likely to sell it off unless they get an offer that would eliminate their entire debt.

      • Keith Stevens

        Again I will quote the the spokesman and also the C.E.O of the company…After AT&T said on Monday that itwould abandon its $39 billionproposal to buy the smaller wireless carrier, T-Mobile was at a loss to explain what its strategy will be. “There’s no Plan B,” said Andreas Fuchs, a spokesman for Deutsche Telekom, the German telecommunications company that owns and operates T-Mobile. “We’re back at the starting point.”

        The carrier is already far behind. This year so far, while both AT&T and Verizon have each added more than five million wireless subscribers, T-Mobile lost 23,000 customers, according to Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile researcher and analyst. Even Sprint, which has struggled against AT&T and Verizon, added almost 3.5 million wireless customers during the first three quarters of the year.

        In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, René Obermann, the chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, made it clear that he was still actively looking for a way to withdraw the company’s foothold in the United States. 

        Yes your article was very informative about cellular technology and a great article… However you also have no inside information and I am gonna go with the C.E.O of the company and the failing Financial Numbers. While they are not losing money yet… that is only because of slashing the bottom line and that is about to be at its end. They are the the critical point were they can no longer slash operations cost to keep up with huge customer losses. This is also why the iPhone for T-Mobile never left prototype… and never will. You can also see evidence of this with the recent re-farming of there 1700Mhz spectrum to 1900 in some limited areas of the country to allow the iPhone to use 3G. I live in one of those areas and have seen a iPhone using 3G in the last couple weeks.

        • Blank21

          re-farming has nothing to do with the iPhone. We are in need of an additional carrier but out of AWS spectrum in those areas.

        • Keith Stevens

          No they are not out of AWS spectrum in those areas…

    • Realcool2000

      Mikey don’t even try. Conan put out a great article based on facts and stuck to his point on informing everyone.

      Unlike your posts that always speculate while trying your best to sound informed about things you can’t control and everytime your speculation is wrong you act like the turn of events is within the original forcast of your usually wrong predictions.

      Just please leave Conans straight forward article untainted of your bitchery and wait until you think of some way to try and show that you know when att is going to break up or verizon and sprint will become vrint

      …..better yet explain to us all again how ur not even on tmobile and use an obscure prepaid company and pay more than us but somehow its better….remember that post of yours….?

      • ItsMichaelNotMike

        Man… you really are cool. Great analysis too.

        • Realcool2000

          good one Mikey…..way to use my post name against me, learn how to talk trash please….and yes i know my analysis of you is on point, if this is how u defend yourself then dont get in a debate, or an argument with ur girlfriend.

          BTW hows that job u have brown nosing all the higher ups at ur work goin? Are you climbing the corporate ladder in record time? Let me know where to send the congratulatory tissue box to, bro, you must clean up the ol sniffer quite a bit….

        • Keith Stevens

          What are you like 6 years old…  

        • Realcool2000

          Oh ouch…yeah I’m 6 because I my points make u think if your posts make sense. Anyway let’s drop it, it was a cool article and Mike always talks about things but is wrong a lot but never admits it and he was just jealous cause Conan put out an article that Mikey always wished he could, and u seem to just infer way to much and wish u could talk trash as well as me.

          Great article period. Happy New Year.

        • Realcool2000

          The way Mike writes all his posts does scream brown noser tho and I’m not afraid to say it. What doesn’t make sense is why You ( Keith ) are upset about it. ( I know I know, but I just couldn’t help myself ), Conan writes good article, Mikey trys to steal the thunder with his usual bs, I comment on Mikes usual bs, 911 comments on Mikes bs, Keith comments on me and 911 infering all the wrong stuff.

          All this really means is that Keith is a jockrider…now I understand and can have closure…thank god.

      • Keith Stevens

        Maybe you should read the article again… The title says EDITORIAL!!! Do you know what a Editorial is? Obviously not. Yes it is informative but he does not work for T-mobile either just as he said. You also need to look at his response to how he researched the article… He has no inside information. While his statement can be true… what he needs to specify is that while it might happen…. It won’t happen with Deutsch telecom. It will happen with whoever buys the company… 

        • Realcool2000

          I actually do know what an editorial is, but whats that have to do with the article/editorial/statement? What is your point, I mean, the article just showed some history of the communication industry relating to cell phones and Conans thoughts about Tmo, i dont really know why I need to read it again, i mean I already read it a few times cause it was really interesting.


          1. an article in a newspaper or other periodical presenting the opinion of the publisher, editor,  or editors. 2. a statement broadcast on radio or television that presents the opinion of the owner, manager, or the like, of the station or channel. 3. something regarded as resembling such an article or statement, as a lengthy, dogmatic utterance.

          Conan never claimed to have inside info, and what exactly are you debating or upset about…..?

          Are you Mikeys little sister or something…..?

        • Keith Stevens

          Obviously you didn’t read my post… I gave props on the article and liked the tech info. Told him it was great article. I in no way insulted Conan about his article. In fact I stated that I think thats what will happen but Not By T-Mobile. Just because someone Disagrees with your “Opinion” you can’t come up with any intelligent comment and can only insult people. Michaels comment under  bottom line: are facts taken Directly from comment made by the C.E.O and the spokesman for the company.  If you bother to read the forum correctly I was talking to Guest911. Seems some people on this forum cannot have a debate without acting like a child. 


    • NostinkingCFA

      Spoken like an anal-yst…..right down to the “forward-looking” line.

      What you guys frequently get wrong is how “never” is a really dangerous word to use.
      You’d be safer with, “not for awhile” or “not this year” or “not for five years”…. but you never factor in the fickleness of consumers and how they, quite often, have a totally different agenda than what Wall Street thinks.

    • Tbyrne

      “Everyone thought this deal was in the bag.” Including you!!

    • Guest911

      Mikey – you too cool n smart for us bro. Go comment on other blogs where they appreciate peeps full of crap like u bro. I read ur comments and always wonder who even likes ur long winded, unfactual gassy comments.

      • Keith Stevens

        Really? So what in the world would make you think that a company that has tried to sell t-mo for over a year would suddenly turn around and instead of gaining 36 Billion to infuse cash into the parent company, Sink 9 Billion into a company that it has said More than once in the last year that it WOULD NOT put more money into. This is coming from Deutsch telecom themselves.  Guest911 you are the one who is sadly mistaken. I am a T-Mo customer and you need to see the writing on the wall. You seem to ignore statements that the company themselves are saying…. The fact that you can only insult someone for stating what the company has already said…(And obviously true when they tried to SELL the company) tells me a lot. How about you back up your statement with something more than elementary school insults. 

        • Realcool2000

          Hey Keith 911 only said Mikeys comment was long winded and annoying and Mike had a lot more to say of his own opinion not just stating what tmo has already said. So get ur facts straight Keith about who said what and don’t start talkin till u do. This post is crowded as is and there’s only room for one annoying guy ( and mikey takes that spot so butt out.)

          Simply put 911 can comment on Mike all he wants and just cause u think tmo may go downhill doesn’t mean you read his post correctly so reread it or don’t, but 911 just said Mike was annoying he don’t have to back it up with anything more than

          If u think that was an elementary school insult what u think of this,…..ur moms here Keith and she said she ain’t comin home cause its too fun at this party.

        • Keith Stevens

          Your Comment says it all. 

        • Keith Stevens

          “Simply put 911 can comment on Mike all he wants” And Michael can also comment all he wants… Just because I “Think” T-Mo “Might” go downhill? Lol I have been a T-Mo customer for 4 years and The numbers say it all. Again In MY opinion. And Millions of customers that have left. I am sure you will follow up with some derogatory comment… if you can point to anything that says different than what the C.E.O has stated please feel free to show me. I will admit if I am wrong. But so far I am going by what T-Mobile is saying about there own company. 

  • Loso

    Quite the article my friend, you were able to explain things so that even the most dumbed down reader could understand and that is a talent many do not have. Continue to write fascinating articles that touch the mind and inspire thought.

  • BigMixxx

    DAMN!  Great Article.  Yup, stick it out then switch…Screw the haters, and do what you do…

    the LTE chant is all we here on commercials these days….As if we need it.  No Phones, just LTE…

    This is good shout.

    Happy Christmas and merry good year…

  • archerian

    As LTE pushes spectral efficiency and devices and apps require higher bandwidth, it will be the backhaul that will need beefing up… The final cost will include costs for overhaul of backhaul/leasing more lines/microwave links etc. not just spectrum costs and network hardware..

    • While that is true, T-Mobile has long since had a leg up on the backhaul side. They’ve been proactively upgrading backhaul in nearly all of their cell sites for over three years now.

      • Blank21


        Our market got its 1st 20meg ethernet circuit 2yrs ago. We’ve been very aggressive since.

        • Anonymous

          And in my market almost all of our sites are at 50Meg and some are already upgraded to 100. Moving right along. 

  • Technologist

    Hats off to you for this write up.  THIS is a perfect example of the where the financial analyst “kids” usually miss the granularity (their word) in looking forward (their words). Ha ha ho ho ho!  Some of the low down technical details are “beneath” them.  

    They can only pontificate on the 10000 foot platform that they see this space from.

  • Ogden Wernstrom

    I’ve been wanting to say this ever since I saw your avatar, and just realized this is the perfect article to do it.


    • Haha! Wow, a fellow fan of Detective Conan, I presume?

      ?????????(Translation: Always, there is only one truth!)


  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article, it’s really terrific. A little geeky and techy, but provides a great breakdown of T-mo’s current spectrum situation. Bravo, more of this in the future, please!

  • Anonymous

    Very well-written article. Interesting read, thanks :)

    And Merry Christmas :)

  • Anonymous

    Conan, this is some fantastic stuff. Would you mind sharing how you did your research for this article, maybe some linked sources? Did/do you have a background with T-mo’s engineering department? I find this sort of behind-the-scenes infrastructure stuff fascinating, and would love to read up more on it. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

    • Man, I wish. Most of the history I know from doing my research over the summer to submit a comment to the FCC about the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. The information of the plans and stuff was pieced together from various public and private comments by T-Mobile engineering staff. The LTE stuff was from research into LTE that I did when Verizon launched it back in December 2010. I’ve been doing more research into LTE recently for something else though.

  • Great article.  Very informative

  • Andyinc91

    I just want the refarming to deploy ASAP. I’m using an unlocked iPhone and EDGE in (almost) 2012 sounds unheard of these days. 3G please T-Mobile!!

    • Blank21

      Not every site will get the re-farmed 1900MHz, at least not until GSM (2G)  traffic decreases enough to be completely turned off.(A few years from now)  Again is a site capacity issue where more spectrum is needed and TMo doesn’t have anymore AWS available.

  • Roger Sales

    All of this does make sense and is a very smart plan considering our limited options at these points. However, because of T-Mobile USA parent company’s financial situation we can’t be as spendy as we’d like to be in gaining spectrum assets via acquisitions, which I think would be a good way to strengthen the company. For one, because of the similar spectrum holdings MetroPCS and Cricket are prime targets for us. While they use incompatible CDMA technology, its all PCS and AWS holdings they have, and their end game is LTE just like T-Mobile’s, suggesting a potentially smash success if they manage it better than Sprint did with Nextel. slowly phasing out CDMA handsets while pushing the triband dual and quad carrier HSPA+ and eventually LTE handsets could see these companies becoming a force to be reckoned with in both the prepaid and postpaid markets. Also,because of the enhanced PCS and AWS holdings of these acquisitions aggregrated with T-Mobile’s own holdings would allow them to speed up the refarming process and make a difference as soon as possible before we lose credibility. This is coming from just a regular fanboy with no expertise in the matter, but because the wireless market is dominated by the big two big bells, something like this needs to occur to maintain some level of competition(as well as an eventual iPhone deal, obviously.)

    If there’s errors in my logic feel free to correct me. I just want T-Mobile to remain alive and well, and be able to stay a value company that manages to maintain efficacy.

    • Anonymous

      I just find this out on Monday my gf just switch from tmo to Verizon(too long a reason to go into details why.)got the HTC Thunderbolt,find out all of Verizon 4g phones are gsm phones.
      They use slim cards. If Verizon can have the 2 diffrent technology,I can’t see why Tm can’t.
      That would be great if they did buy Leap and mtropcs.

  • This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. 

  • Anonymous

    Is it me or does T-Mo always seem to always be disadvantaged somehow in comparison to the other guys?

    • Yeah. They’re in a tight spot. Blame the FCC and the Department of Justice for not forcing more divestitures from AT&T and Verizon’s various acquisitions that would have allowed T-Mobile to compete more effectively.

  • Anonymous

    This is by far the best, most accurate and well put together article I have ever read explaining the networks and spectrum. Kudos to you sir. It could not have been explained any better.

    • Heh. Thanks! Now if only T-Mobile would actually do LTE deployment this way. LTE equipment for AWS and PCS has come down sharply in the last year, and it continues to fall. In 2012, AWS and PCS LTE equipment should be very cheap. With the advanced network infrastructure, they can quickly deploy LTE. 

      As I recall, T-Mobile uses primarily Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent. I think they uses Alcatel-Lucent’s stuff for their 2G GSM network and NSN’s stuff for their HSPA+ network. Though, if they upgraded to NSN’s Flexi platform and replaced Alcatel-Lucent’s technology with NSN’s in areas with HSPA+ already deployed, then LTE can be easily installed in those areas.

      • Anonymous

        Actually we use Alcatel-Lucent for Our switching platform 2G&3G almost exclusively and Nokia Siemens Flexi platform for our 3G. We also use Ericsson and Nortel is some markets. But you are correct. The transition to LTE on the Nokia Flexi platformed networks will be an easy switch since the newer radios we use are software controlled and can be WCDMA or LTE. With this advantage I am sure the other vendors will design a similar platform in order to compete.   

        • What about markets like Starkville, Mississippi, which have not yet been upgraded to 3G or HSPA+? What technology platform would they likely be using? That’s an important consideration because areas like those have only 10MHz of AWS and are likely candidates for PCS HSPA+ and AWS LTE.

        • Anonymous

          It will be Nokia/Siemens Flexi. They will only be rolling out one carrier at first due to the 10MHZ of spectrum. Then once people move to 3G devices and we can clear 1900 spectrum we will run on 1900 for dual carrier. Plus, everyone is forgetting the spectrum we will be getting from AT&T. I don’t know where the spectrum is licensed for but it will indeed help. 
          And single carrier isn’t so bad. I was in Mobile AL this week for Christmas and they only have 10 MHZ running one carrier and I was getting 5Mbits on speed tests. 

        • I know single-carrier isn’t bad. But zones like Starkville have 30MHz or more of PCS, which means they can scale back GSM to 10MHz and fit in dual-carrier HSPA+ easily. They might still put single-carrier HSPA+ on AWS anyway, too. There’s a lot of people I’ve convinced to move to T-Mobile that don’t have 3G and their phones don’t have PCS HSPA+ support.

        • Anonymous

          Yea that is a problem but all of our new phones will have 1900 support. Amaze, Sensation, Radar, GS2 etc all have 1900 now. 

        • Anonymous

          Not to mention The unlocked iPhone will work as well…

        • Craye1119

          I know how you feel, I live in Oxford, MS and I get Edge in town and G at home. They just dropped a bunch of towers around Grenada and Water Valley, I went down to WV and my GS2 showed 4G connection but the speedtest only topped out around 1.5Mbps with a somewhat high latency. I miss living in an area where there is full speed and better signal but love the small town where it’s quiet and mostly safe.

        • If it will be NSN’s Flexi platform, what is T-Mobile using now in those sites?

  • Philyew

    Interesting stuff, right down to the final paragraph where it says: ”
    I seriously doubt it will cost $9 billion unless Deutsche Telekom wants to buy more spectrum to use for LTE. For now, though, they don’t really need to. As long as they are smart about how they use their spectrum, they can hold off acquiring more spectrum for a few more years.”

    Someone should show that to the Deutsche Telekom CEO who just this week commented on the needs for TMO USA : “…but over the long term we need more mobile spectrum to make sure we are ready for LTE.”

    There will be those who leap on his use of the “long term” reference as meaning substantially the same as Conan’s comment about “holding off acquiring more spectrum for a few more years”. Personally, however, I prefer to focus on his final point about making “sure we are READY for LTE.”

    TMO USA needs to be READY for LTE pretty darned soon, given that it is already being deployed by its competitors. Conan dismisses the justification for TMO USA to have LTE simply because everyone else has it, but try competing as a top-tier carrier when everyone else has it and they stop TMO USA talking about its “4G network”, which will no longer catch a break from the standards authorities.

    • Here’s the thing: T-Mobile could deploy LTE right now if they wanted to. They won’t because they are more concerned about getting their infrastructure in place for a mid to late 2012 deployment of LTE. One way or another, T-Mobile will be deploying LTE in late 2012 to early 2013. Their network technology already makes it easy to deploy (NSN Flexi), so the major cost will be spectrum. If they use AWS and PCS, they don’t need to buy more spectrum yet. Ideally, a new spectrum band would be great, but T-Mobile has to work with what it has. And what it doesn’t have is the free cash needed to put back into a spectrum auction or a company acquisition. They have the money to build out LTE, but they don’t have the money to buy more spectrum. They could do network sharing and spectrum sharing agreements with Dish and others, and that is likely the option they will choose.

      • Anonymous

        why don’t they use the billions of dollars they’re receiving from AT&T to buy spectrum?

        • Because Deutsche Telekom’s more immediate concern is lowering their approximately €40 billion (nearly $53 billion) debt.

          That $3 billion in cash can be pushed to reduce their debt by €2.33 billion, which is about 5.825% debt reduction. That’s pretty significant for a single year of debt reduction. However, if they had managed to sell T-Mobile for $39 billion, they would have been able to reduce their debt by about €30 billion, which is a 75% debt reduction. Mr. Obermann would have been hailed as the greatest debt-reducer in Deutsche Telekom’s short history as a publicly traded company. 

          However, a 5.825% debt reduction is considered above the normal average for progressive debt reduction. As long as they continue to make repayments and not incur massive charges that are not normal for its continued operation, they will be fine. They’ll be fine as long as Telekom Deutschland, T-Mobile USA, and T-Systems continue to be the most profitable units of Deutsche Telekom and they don’t incur even more legal fees along the way…

          This does mean that Deutsche Telekom’s global operations need to focus their costs and reduce wherever they can. T-Mobile’s new Wi-Fi Calling system is the result of these actions. By staggering out the work they need to deploy LTE, they can actually deploy more cheaply than if they decided to do a massive rollout all at once. 

          Now that they have the IMS infrastructure in place along with all of the Evolved Packet Core technology deployed in the core network for HSPA+, they just need to get to work deploying the NSN Flexi platform across their entire footprint. This will lead to T-Mobile being able to refarm spectrum literally at a flick of the switch remotely, since the Flexi platform uses a software-defined radio. After enough areas have 2G GSM scaled down or turned off, T-Mobile can go in and install the required antennae configurations on towers to support LTE. Then, another software upgrade on the tower will enable LTE, and that’s it!

          The Value plan was also introduced to reduce costs. The Value plans are great for both the subscriber and the carrier because the carrier doesn’t subsidize anymore, and the subscriber can flexibly pay off the purchase of a device without interest. This system is similar to the one used for contract customers in the Nordic and the German-speaking regions. Additionally, the Value plan system is likely to be deployed to various T-Mobile branches that don’t already use a similar system in order to reduce costs. So far, they are seeing great success in the USA, so I would expect it to be deployed in some of their more contract-heavy divisions in Europe like Telekom Deutschland. 

      • macman37

        Could you please post some links to where you found T-Mobile’s LTE deployment schedule?  It’s been hard to find their 4G LTE deployment schedule when searching on the web and Cnet’s editors seriously doubt that T-Mobile has no plans for LTE.  I, for one, really look forward to it as it would mean that we, the consumers, would still have a great mobile network that has great value in their 4G LTE voice & data plans and great customer service.  Thanks Conan!

        • I don’t have links as most of my info about T-Mobile’s plans come from comments from T-Mobile staff. The information about NSN Flexi being deployed by T-Mobile is well known already. The public information about refarming for LTE and HSPA+ was last mentioned at the January 20th meeting held by Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile USA.

          They even mentioned back then that it would cost one to two billion dollars to deploy LTE given their advanced network architecture and their needs from LTE.

  • macman37

    Although this article is very informative and tells us that T-Mobile still is preparing for LTE and has been for the last 2 years, their need for more spectrum has to come through a deal with some company like the Dish Network or someone else who can give a similar offer or better  The Dish Network has already expressed an direct interest in partnering with T-Mobile; Verizon has bought AWS spectrum from some of their other potential partnering options; and the last thing T-Mobile does not need is to be once again behind in the mobile phone technology if they pass up on partnering with some company like the Dish Network or similar or better offers.  I do really like and agree with how smart it is of them with they use their spectrum in preparation for LTE; but they sure need to be more alert and agressive with their other options.

  • Zach Gabelein

    True, but even Verizon doesn’t have great coverage up in the north west.. So it’s a catch 22.

  • Sue Rudd

    Great article  – I estimate that this approach could lower Investment required for Network Upgrade to $6 Billion over the next 3 years.

    T-Mobile USA difficulties are greatly over-stated. Margins are improving and HSPA+ upgrade is sufficient for a while. See my Blog at: http://bit.ly/t7cLbC

    Happy New Year!

    Long Live T-Mobile USA 

  • Mike

    Great article if you want a bunch of meandering detail and want to hunt for the core point.  This was written by someone way to close to this issue. It could have been half as long and twice as articulate.  Tell them what you are going to say.  Say it.  Tell them what you said.

    • TmoREp

      why waste money on LTE when we have  hspa+ the speed that i get from my htc amze alone is just as fast as the newest verizon phone i get real good speeds hear in los angles california USA witth this new network they are pushing out more towers for hspa+42 why need LTE why follow all the other BIg companies when we tmo can stay strong with hspa+42

  • kaito kid

    completely unrelated…but i love that your name is from detective conan, love that show.

  • Jcasillas22

    tmo is gona spend just enough to construct a lte network, but it will be just as shotty as their current 4g….effin bare minimun, always…

  • Thanks for a very tech-heavy article — just what I was looking for!

    And now that TMO has all of those lovely AT&T billion$ to spend, perhaps they will use those gigabucks to build out LTE.

  • Anonymous

    OMG. This article came to life!
    Tmobile will be going LTE in 2013.

  • Y314K

    Conan…  Please do a updated editorial now that Tmobile seems to have come back to life from the dead…