More low-band spectrum needed despite Verizon deal

2013-12-06-10-31-08-cell tower

Apart from being focussed on bringing the best deals available to the US postpaid market, T-Mobile’s other “North Star” at the moment is coverage, and it has to be. Once it has the coverage and the plans to compete with the bigger carriers, it’ll be a serious threat and will have a much larger influence on the market.

Part of its strategy to increase quality of coverage and areas covered is to purchase lower frequency spectrum. The idea behind that is to be able to provide strong, fast signal that works better indoors. This is precisely why it negotiated a deal with Verizon over the past couple of months to secure a chunk of VZW’s A-block spectrum in a deal worth almost $2.4 billion.

Despite the mega-deal to take some of VZW’s unwanted airwaves, Magenta still needs more to get to the strength and depth of coverage it needs and wants to be among the top dogs.

In a blog post (via Fierce Wireless), Kathleem Ham (VP of Federal Regulatory Affairs) stated that the deal with Verizon “will provide us with a good base of low-band spectrum, but it does not eliminate our need to continue to add to our portfolio.” It was also reported at the same time as the deal was announced, that the spectrum wouldn’t be available to use until later on in the year. And that’s a lot to do with the inteference between the airwaves and TV channel 51

“Even though interference and other problems previously associated with the A-Block are rapidly diminishing, thanks in part to an interoperability deal brokered by the FCC with AT&T and Dish, not all of the spectrum will be immediately usable.”

She also stated that – at the moment – the amount of low-band spectrum owned by Verizon and AT&T far outweighs what T-Mobile has. And this could have an impact on future spectrum auctions, one of which is coming soon.

“This means the need to place modest spectrum aggregation limits on the big two carriers in the upcoming 600 MHz broadcast incentive auction has not changed as a result of our transaction with Verizon. As the Department of Justice has explained, AT&T and Verizon have a strong economic incentive to keep other competitors from winning the low-band spectrum at auction, and without reasonable limits on what they can acquire, they are likely to walk away with all or the lion’s share of the licenses offered. We hope the FCC will put the right rules in place to ensure we can continue to roll out the services and technologies consumers have come to expect from T-Mobile.”

In short: The “Big Two” have more cash than everyone else, and without a limit on what carriers are allowed to bid for, it’ll end up with the low-band spectrum being even more unfairly spread out, with T-Mobile possibly missing out on what it needs to expand its low-frequency airwaves nationwide, and compete effectively. With the A-block purchased from Verizon, it can only cover around 21 if the top 30 metro areas, roughly 158 million people.

While we’re hopeful the FCC will put limitations on what carriers can acquire – in terms of spectrum – it’s uncertain as to whether or not the governing body will do anything.

Via: Fierce Wireless
Source: T-Mobile


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  • KingofPing

    Really hoping the FCC limits the amount of spectrum available to ATT/VZW. We desperately need to even this out a bit. Getting T-Mobile this spectrum will go a *very* long way to improving it’s base of coverage.

    • sidekicker89

      Exactly! AT&T claims they have the fastest LTE and yet they need more spectrum? yeah because they want to keep it away from the hands of T-Mobile. Hope the FCC sees that.

  • archerian

    Is this the beginning of T-mobile’s foundation of why we need to merger with Sprint? ATT did the same a few years ago – “We just NEED T-mobile as we are running out of spectrum and facing a bad crunch”

    • fsured

      I thought the same when reading the article. But goes without saying the Verizon deal wasn’t going to solve the issue and we all knew that already. I’t is only a start.

    • taron19119

      No this is the if u want to have 4 national carriers then u have to help the little guys get more spectrum

    • philyew

      They have been making this point for some time now.


      In fact the lobbying that was already going on may well have contributed to the decision to delay the incentive auction until mid 2015.

      Kind of ironic, but typical of their luck when it comes to spectrum auctions, that TM’s own arguments should have delayed a sell-off that they urgently need to go ahead ASAP. It’s not just a matter of getting their hands on new 600MHz spectrum, but they need the resulting changes for the broadcasters to open up their ability to use the 700MHz A block spectrum in places like NYC, LA, and SF.

      Correcting one comment in the article: the channel 51 issues will delay A block deployment until at least the second half of 2015 in affected locations. The delay in deploying the rest of the A block spectrum results from the FCC approval process itself, as they have to rubber stamp the transfer of licenses from Verizon to TM.

      • Jay Holm

        This FCC approval process takes a heck of a long time!!! I want the S5 to be equippedwith the 700mhz ssupport dang it!

        • philyew

          I think they have to allow formal periods for objections to be lodged, but it does seem to drag on for what appear to be routine decisions.

  • Aurizen

    yeah and that A block spectrum does nothing for current phone users like me.

    • Jay Holm

      Upgrade at the end of the year. I’m debating between an S5, or if the S5 doesn’t have 700 Band 12 support then MAYBE T-Mobile will come out with a special 700mhz edition of the S5 at a later time, like they did with an LTE equipped S3 edition. I just want a future-proof phone.

  • kev2684

    if t-mobile gets swallowed by sprint, they might have a hard time to get FCC to limit the big 2 and get the much needed low band spectrum since spectrum wise sprint is the richest of the three + t-mobile’s own spectrum. locking it down for att&vzw might look bad for FCC. the thing is what sprint has are all 2k++ spectrum. sprint and t-mobile will be forever urban carriers if that happens.

    • Adrayven

      From initial feedback I’ve read about from FCC, it’s highly unlikely that the Sprint deal will happen. The FCC and DoJ feel they were justified the first time keeping it 4 carriers as T-Mobile not only survived but thrived..

      They won’t feel inclined AT ALL to mess with that.. It was their feather in their cap, so to speak, to see T-Mobile become much more on its own. This validated their decision then, and will serve to re-enforce sticking to it now..

  • SEBA

    Not only coverage, it looks like they gaining a lot of new users and our LTE it’s becoming slower and slower every week. Pretty soon towers will become overloaded. Hurry up Tmobile!

    • Jay Holm

      I haven’t experienced a slow down in data speeds quite yet. The majority of my time is in the New Haven & Waterbury areas of Ct.

    • philyew

      As always, results vary. LTE has been available in my area for several months but I didn’t get a device to take advantage of it until November. Since then the signal strength hasn’t changed much (still only see one bar when on LTE) but the download had improved considerably. I now get a minimum of 7mbps, up from 2-3mbps.

      My max has jumped to 36mbps.

  • Deceptive Smiles

    This almost sounds like baseball and the lack of a salary cap

  • DaveT
    • philyew

      If that is the case, then Uncarrier will be a disaster for them, with millions exercising their freedom to walk.

      TM have calculated that the most effective place to spend their limited resources is in the cities and suburbs where they already have 3G/HSPA+/LTE service and where over 70% of the population live and work.

      Provide the fastest, most reliable service in those areas by adding wideband at higher frequencies and new sub 1 GHz to work in buildings, at the best prices, and they figure the customers in those areas will wait longer to see better services in other areas that they don’t visit so often. There are over 180 million potential customers to target in the larger markets, compared with less than half that number throughout the rest of the country. It seems like a sensible business risk.

    • Man Genius

      I live in Bergen County NJ, and I get great coverage. I don’t know what towns he’s talking about, but he is wrong.

    • Jay Holm

      I’m not a fan of BGR’s site. It’s way, way too biased of a site!

  • JBLmobileG1

    Not really sure how the money issue works with the banks, but if Soft bank can pull enough money together from banks to possibly buy Tmobile, couldn’t Tmobile get loans in order to aquire more spectrum? I mean why wouldn’t they want to invest into a company that has been doing amazing lately? Just a thought.

    • philyew

      The company is already carrying considerable debt following the MetroPCS merger. Participation in the next auction on an equal footing with AT&T and Verizon would cost many billions to emerge successfully, unless the big two are limited in the amount of spectrum they can acquire. Funding that participation by borrowing is therefore likely to overleverage the company, creating a debt burden that would prevent them walking the fine line which they must follow to keep Uncarrier a success.

      • $15454173

        Thanks for sharing.

      • Jay Holm

        I wonder exactly how much 600mhz is available? I know they will be national licenses, but spectrum wise, 5×5 chunks, 10x10x, 20×20? That’s what I’d like to know.

        • philyew

          I haven’t re-read the recent FCC statement on the issue, but if I recall correctly, they haven’t determined how they are going to split the license allocations yet.

  • BlackJu

    Ready? Set? Lobby!

  • Moby

    T-Mobile stated that the majority of its 700 A spectrum won’t be affected by Channel 51 issues on January 6th via Fierce Wireless:

    “T-Mobile said its A Block buildout can start in 2014 outside the channel
    51 service areas, with more than 50 percent of the covered A Block
    population in such areas. The carrier also said initial markets where
    channel 51 is not present include Dallas, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis,
    Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. , and that it has around 15,000 cell
    sites outside of channel 51 areas.”

    As soon as FCC approves this spectrum swap between Verizon and T-Mobile, T-Mobile can start building out the metro areas above with 700 block A. They have reported that they should have 700 service and handsets in fourth quarter in 2014.

  • ExitX

    Less a matter of who has what now and more about how many subscribers each will have when the FCC rules. If you think the FCC would consider this an important fact then you can understand T-Mobile’s recent motivations to drastically increase subscribers at any cost even if that meant buying them away… it’s an election and buy joining a side we cast a very important vote in the FCC upcoming considerations.

  • Jay J. Blanco

    U.S. Cellular should sell they 700mhz to T-Mobile that’ll help us out more

  • Omarc Boyer

    Tmobile needs this bad also i wish they stopped throttling me :/ i confirmed i have unlimited data in store and called in and every month i use about 4.5 gigs And my speed after that is always reduced to kbps speed with full bars lte after . 2 days ago when i had to pay my bill i confirmed they did it again and this time i used less 2.1 gigs all of January speed was horrible all month i was stuck with kbps speed couldnt even load fb or email yes it was that bad 2 days ago i paid my billl in store now magically all of a sudden im getting 50 mbps yes 50 even have screen shot to prove it. Its always like that for me the first 2 weeks im enjoying full lte speed then the other 2 weeks are horrible ugh my patience is getting low..

    • sidekicker89

      I just got my bill for last month. We have three lines and two of those lines have 2GB of high speed each. One line used over 7GB total and the other used 2.9GB. I did this by watching YouTube videos but I’d have to switch my phone to HSPA+ only because the videos would time out when they are connected to LTE, not sure why. The wait for the videos to load sucks but it still allows me to watch them. Our total bill for three lines is $84.90 and that’s with a Military discount. We are on the 1000k Value Plan with unlimited messaging as well as the 2 GB for two lines. I love T-Mobile!

      • brenda323

        im having the same problem as omar my brand new lg g2 is worthless data wise at first i tought it was my phone luckily the people at the tmobile store were nice enough to switch my sim twice for a brand new one AND even phone . Same problem im in the los angeles area which i think omar is too from what i read in his previous post, dont know if its an LA thing.. anyways back to what i was saying i tought it was my phone till i added my mom to my plan she got an iphone 5s same problem data wise worthless whether is LTE or hspa , i can have full bars LTE OR HSPA on both phones and data aint coming tru ,fb,twitter,email downloading apps is worthless, app downloads start fine fast about 20% it completly stops ,same with youtube vids start of fine about 2 mins in the vid it rebuffers every 5 seconds im not lying every 5 seconds making it impossible to watch a vid and thats with full bars lte or “4g” on both phones. I Seriously dnt know what to do its REALLY starting to piss me off im also paying for UNLIMITED for both lines and its worthless ..

        • Omarc Boyer

          Good to know i aint the only one going tru that! And yes im in LA everything u described i been tru the same thing,dropped calls i have ZERO yes i NEVER drop a call all over LA my problem is DATA.

    • Jay Holm

      Hmm. . .I don’t get throttled at all. And for work I’m a bored security guard, so I use my phone plenty! I get anywhere between 15-30+mb/s during the entire billing cycle.

      Galaxy S4, Central and Southern Connecticut.

      • lakerfan

        you are one lucky guy! i guess tmobile dont do that in connecticut ? because me like the other 2 have same problems as them slow throttled data even tho i have an unlimited plan i dnt know what part of los angeles theyre at but im in the san fernando valley area and same thing all our phones ( 4 in a family plan) show full bars LTE everywhere in san fernando apparently tmobile has great lte there but usually no data comes tru . Before the solution was turn off lte and put phone on gsm/wcdma and use regular “4G” but now like they said not even that works anymore before it did hspa was the solution but now same thing nada comes tru pretty sad if u ask us for tmobile tobe doing that in LA.. EVERYDAY at&t n verizon are looking good.. only reason i dnt switch is cuz i admit im broke and they are way expensive!

        • schweddyballs

          Sounds like a phone issue, or possibly some weird problem with provisioning your data plan, call into tech support. If you have a Samsung android 4.0 or higher make sure you don’t have data usage limit turned on in your settings. I regularly use tons of data per month with no throttling, in Colorado springs.

    • bkin94

      do you use tethering/hotspot? there are exceptions for tethering or “excessive use” which is kinda broad. I assume that would mean like constantly downloading torrents or something. Then again, even if you are tethering, you should still get 2.5 gigs of hotspot so that doesn’t explain the 2.1 gig throttle…

      • Omarc Boyer

        I didn’t even know i had hotspot! Never used it, Oh well sucks its been like that ever since i got tmobile and got my g2 its been hell awesome phone but crappy data ,even tho i supposedly have unlimited data and get full bars Lte and hspa in my house i cant take advantage of it i guess ill have to cancel.

        • XDAUser

          Check your settings..Under data usage click the bar to raise the limit…also uncheck the set data limit.

      • RaineyAutumn

        I used to torrent all the time on LTE with T-Mobile and never once experienced a slow down of speeds

    • Jesus Puga

      Sounds like you are having a phone issue man. I’ve been able to use upwards of 10 Gb of data per month with no problems whatsoever. Cheers from Austin,TX.