T-Mobile in 2014 – A year in review

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Having had such a good year in 2013, I wasn’t all that optimistic about 2014. After all, following up an industry changing year with another is as difficult as releasing a great second album or movie sequel. I mean, you’ve all watched The Matrix Reloaded, right?

But, being the ever-persistent Un-carrier, T-Mo decided not to pay any attention to the script. Instead, its 2014 was so memorable I’ve virtually forgotten everything it did the year previous. In so many ways, 2014 was the best year the company has ever had.

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Most Memorable moment(s)

1. John Legere at CES 

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Image via CNET

Legere is no stranger to controversy. Whether it’s because he’s constantly berating his competition on Twitter or using expletives during company announcements or interviews, he’s never afraid of ruffling a few feathers. But one moment in particularly sticks in mind from earlier this year: CES and the AT&T after-party.

Back in January, T-Mobile was in Las Vegas for the Uncarrier 4.0 announcement. But, it just so happens that AT&T was also in town and that they had a show/party planned with one of Legere’s favorite artists on stage. Macklemore was performing and our favorite company’s CEO couldn’t stay away. He “just wanted to see Macklemore.” And – after sharing a selfie with CNET’s Roger Cheng – promptly got asked to leave the party. Of course, AT&T believed he was there to cause a scene. John was there for the music (or so he says), but gladly accepted the extra media attention following his ousting from the show. It was almost enough to upstage Michael Bay’s walk-off during the Samsung TV announcement.

2. BlackBerry fallout

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In my mind, the other big moment of the year was the public fallout with BlackBerry. And it all started with a fairly innocent offer to BlackBerry users. T-Mobile started sending out post cards offering BB users the chance to upgrade to an iPhone. Whether or not they knew how passionate BlackBerry fans are, and how strong a force they can be is unknown. But it caused a stir nonetheless. Shortly afterwards, John Chen – BlackBerry’s new chief – reacted, calling the move “inappropriate and ill-conceived.”

But that wasn’t the end. T-Mobile decided to show its BlackBerry users “it still cared” by offering them a chance to trade-in their old BBerry for $200 if they upgraded to a new smartphone. They’d even get an extra $50 off if they chose to buy the Z10 or Q10. Turns out though, almost every one of the trade-in customers decided to opt for iOS or Android instead. 94% of trade-ins switched to a different platform.

And it wasn’t along before BlackBerry and T-Mobile officially split. Their agreement ended, and T-Mo stopped selling the Canadian company’s products.

Still, I can’t help but feel that this is certainly a relationship to watch during 2015, following the BlackBerry mini-revival that seems to be happening right now. Its most recent devices – Classic and Passport – are promising productivity focussed devices for the enterprise market. Both will be sold by AT&T and Verizon.

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5 Uncarrier Moves

It’s hard to believe we had 5 major Uncarrier moves in one year. That’s in addition to the awesome limited-time offers the company has launched.

Uncarrier 4.0 – ETF’s paid

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Before CES we’d been told be our sources that T-Mo was planning something pretty special for Uncarrier 4.0. Specifically, that T-Mobile was going to start offering a way out for customers trapped in contracts with the other carriers. Customers could get up to $350 to end their relationship with a competitor, plus up to another $300 for trading in their existing phone and porting their number across. It was a huge success and lead to one of T-Mobile’s best financial quarters in history.

Uncarrier 5.0 – iPhone Test Drive

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Uncarrier five was all about dealing with two misconceptions: That T-Mobile has terrible coverage and that T-Mo doesn’t carry the iPhone. We haven’t received any official figures (although I’ve asked more than once) on how many test drives there have been, or how many have converted in to customers, but it’s a great offer nonetheless. Customers can try out an iPhone 5s on T-Mobile for 7 days – for free – to see how they perform in their area. If they don’t get good coverage, they return the phone and that’s the end of it. It has not cost them anything. But if they discover T-Mo’s coverage is as good (or better) than their current provider, at least they know that T-Mobile is a viable alternative. And switching will more than likely save them money too.

Uncarrier 6.0 – Music Freedom

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People love music. But in today’s consumerist culture, no one really wants to pay for it. This attitude has seen a huge rise in the number of customers opting for streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Beats Music (among many others). And while many are free, or offer great value subscriptions, they still use data. So T-Mobile – in its wisdom – decided to start white-listing music streaming services so that they didn’t count against customer data allowances. And for its top-tier customers there was the option of using unRadio – a service created by T-Mo in partnership with Rhapsody – for free.

Uncarrier 7.0 – Wi-Fi Unleashed

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“This time it’s personal”. Running up to T-Mobile’s Uncarrier 7.0 announcement we’d seen a few details on an unreleased 4G signal booster, and what we knew as a “Personal Cellspot”. The latter of the two was of particular interest. It looked like an ASUS router with T-Mobile’s branding on it. With the “Cellspot” branding, we put 2+2 together and unfortunately got 5. We assumed – wrongly – that it was a wireless router with a built-in microcell to provide great 4G signal throughout the house as well as being a great Wi-Fi router.

What T-Mobile actually released was an ASUS router optimized to prioritize its Wi-Fi calling and texting services. This ensured that customers could still use their phones even if there was little to no cellular signal in their houses. As well as offering the Cellspot for free (with deposit), T-Mo also announced a new international Wi-Fi calling service, and a partnership with GoGo for inflight texting. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you are, even if you’re in the sky, you can use T-Mo’s service.

Uncarrier 8.0 – Data Stash

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Data Stash, T-Mobile’s fancy new name for data rollover. Uncarrier 8.0 was announced earlier this month. In short: T-Mobile customers on the right plan(s) can keep any data they don’t use and stash it in a virtual “bank” for another time. Any data “Stashed” will stick for up to a year. What’s more, T-Mo will help get you started with 10GB of data.

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Network Engineering Wizards

I can’t do a year-end review without mentioning T-Mobile’s magical engineering team. Not only have these wizards been lighting up LTE in new areas – like Cincinnati – using the 1900MHz band, but they’ve also managed to get T-Mobile’s faster wideband LTE up and running in 27 major markets including the Greater Bay Area, New York City, Dallas and Seattle among others.

T-Mo’s also been on something of a spectrum spree, acquiring as much low-band spectrum as it can. So far it has deals in place (some complete, others pending) covering over 180 million POPs. And we’ve even seen evidence that its 700MHz band 12 network is already being deployed in a number of locations across the U.S.

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Financial Performance

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I’m no financing, earnings or stock market guru. But I still can’t help but be impressed by the magenta carrier’s momentum this year. It returned to revenue growth for the first time in years and is getting to the point where it might report a profit (at last). What’s more impressive is that although it’s the 4th largest carrier, it has been adding more subscribers than all of its competition. In Q3 alone, the company added 2.3 million customers to its ranks. That’s 10 million added over the course of 6 quarters. And it broke all of its records (virtually) including service revenue growth of 10.6% year-on-year.

Which ever way you look at it, T-Mobile is on the up.

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All the best phones and all the best offers

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There weren’t any major flagship U.S. Android or iOS devices that T-Mobile missed out on this year, apart from the new Verizon exclusive Droid Turbo. T-Mo got the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 (Windows version too), Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6, Xperia Z3, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and LG G3. If there was one area it fell short, it was Windows Phone. Sure, it got the HTC One M8 for Windows, but no high end Nokias. It seems – sadly for WP fans – that T-Mo is more focussed on the lower end of Microsoft’s mobile platform. But then again, that’s a safe bet since it’s the only area of the market in which Windows Phone seems to be doing well.

There were some great plans and offers worth highlighting from this year too. T-Mobile added a new truly unlimited tier to Simple Choice, costing $80 per month, it gives unlimited 4G LTE and 5GB of hotspot allowance. We also saw new Stateside international talk and text plans as well as the awesome new unlimited 2 for $100 deal and 10GB, 4 for $100 Family Plans. Tablets buyers got further inventive to join T-Mobile with the new data matching plan for customers buying tablets and Simple Choice smartphone plans.

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The not so good

Not all plan changes and company policy changes were popular. Changes to JUMP! split opinions. On the one hand, the new JUMP! plans would allow customers to change phones whenever they wanted, instead of making them wait at least 6 months. But on the other, you now need to have paid at least half of the phone’s EIP to upgrade early. The end of T-Mobile’s corporate monthly discount caused a stir early this year too. Apart from some governmental bodies, T-Mo has been ending relationships with many companies meaning that many are losing their monthly line rental discount. What’s more, some vocal customers are upset at the “forced” migration from legacy plans to Simple Choice. And compulsory SIM Starter Kits now cost $15 each (up from $10).

Perhaps the biggest cloud of T-Mobile’s year was the lawsuit from the FTC, alleging that T-Mo had been adding millions in “bogus” charges to its customers’ accounts. This was after the carrier had announced a program to refund customers who had been charged for Premium SMS services they didn’t want. In the end, T-Mobile and the FTC agreed on a settlement worth around $90 million.

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What’s next, for 2015?

In short: More of the same please, John. We want the same Uncarrier attitude, the same dedication to eliminating broken parts of this industry. Whether that’s continuing to petition the FCC to change broken and old rules about spectrum auction and roaming deals, or eliminating customer pain points. This is the Un-carrier, and it has to continue showing the other carriers what they’re doing wrong.

T-Mobile’s 2014 hasn’t been perfect. But it has been fantastic, and incredibly entertaining to watch and be involved in. Let’s hope for the same in 2015.

What do you guys want to see in 2015? What Uncarrier moves will shake the industry?

Cheng/Legere image source: CNET

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  • D_Wall__

    Ideally, Just dont loose the momentum that has been gained. More spectrum means better experiences for all. Id like to see a better Tablet and wearables line up. Maybe some more Windows phones for those who prefer. Maybe more accessories in store. I honestly don’t have much to complain about. Just keep up the damn good work!

  • Newmexican

    Nice retrospective – and for 2015: Build out your network outside of the big cities! Los Alamos, NM a high-tech city still on Edge, come on ……

    • Jimmylee Gutierrez

      According to Sensorly, Los Alamos, NM got LTE last week. It looks like Taos is getting LTE also. :-)

      • Newmexican

        You are right, this is new. But I would not call it coverage. There are two small spots in town, nothing in any residential or most business areas. Hey, but it is a start :-)

    • JDM

      Yup to what Jimmylee said. :) I’ve talked to people who have used LTE in Los Alamos, but it is pretty new. Taos also does have LTE now; I’ve used it on my brother-in-law’s phone. Looks like T-Mobile is starting to move in NM.

      • Jay Holm

        Gosh! In 2-4yrs T-Mobile is going to be totally unrecognizably better. I wonder how much of a threar they can realistically become to the big 2 by the end of the decade, that all will depend on how much 600mhz & 400mhz spectrum they can snag.

  • Patrick Dodd

    Honestly i would like to see T-Mobile allow for more of a ‘average salary’ type of movement as well. I am all for the Jump program but once that hit my credit went a little lower than i would like due to student loans, and caused me to have to pay more than 300 for the cheaper of the phones. I would like to see different options so that people like me that can’t afford to put 350 down on a phone can raise their monthly price to pay more of that downpayment rather than paying it up front. I have never missed a due date on my phones.

    • Robert

      Actually, if you have been with t-mobile for 3 years you won’t have to put any money down. Thats what I was told when I went to the store a few days ago.

      • Patrick Dodd

        I don’t know about that I have been on this plan for 3 and a half years and every time i am checking whether it is in store or online it states i am required to pay basically half of the phone as a deposit.

        • Robert

          I would call customer service next time, I have been with t-mboile for 2 years and the salesperson told me this upcoming July I can get zero down for being with them for 2 years. Doesn’t hurt to call and see

        • Patrick Dodd

          Yeah i will do that, I didn’t know anything about that. It is always nice to learn new things. thank you. I appreciate it.

        • Robert

          Also, check this link that Cam mentions on this site for more info https://www.tmonews.com/2014/11/t-mobile-is-adjusting-its-credit-requirements-for-eip/

  • vinnyjr

    As long as T-Mobiloe continues to build out their Network to places with little to no service they will grow. Don’t forget their long time customers and those living in the big cities because that is their bread and butter customers. My service has never been better. T-Mobile beats all other Carriers in my city outside of Boston. Thank you T-Mobile, Thank You John Legere.

  • Verizonthunder

    I believe next year will be even bigger four possible/wishes are more 700mhz with possible 600mhz purchase, more coverage for 15×15/20×20 widebands, new cell phone coverage, and a new loyalty program for loyal customers example if you been with the company for two years five percent discount on accessories, four years five percent discount on smartphones /accessories, six years five percent discount on cell bill/smartphones/accessories, eight years ten percent discount on accessories/smartphones and ten years would include ten percent discount cell phone bill/smartphones/accessories.

    • brownsbacker

      I like the idea, but to simplify it, 5 years (5%), 7 years (7%), 10+ years (10%) on accessories and bill. I’m not sure how much of a margin phones have. Anything less than 5 years, to me, isn’t showing a lot of true loyalty.

      Full 700 mhz deployment. I am aware that some areas will not get it even though they have the spectrum due to channel 51 interference.

      Rapid conversion of 2G, Edge to LTE (of any kind) would be great. I just went on a road trip from Georgia to NW Illinois and there were many areas that were unusable for anything other than placing a call. I actually had just ‘G’ in some parts. Remember, this was along the expressways.

      • Verizonthunder

        Thanks and I agree mainly just thinking of suggestions something that would apply retroactively for current loyal customers.

        Yes that is a delay issue but also the regular individuals have zero idea what 700mhz is or how important for the carrier in general.

        Understood but there rapid upgrades are better off then Sprint in due time close to the finish line only mid 2015.

        • brownsbacker

          Sprint’s LTE and 4G coverage is the biggest joke in the industry. They were first with a 4G technology in WIMAX. Unfortunately for them it was never adopted by anyone else in the states. Their 3G (and Verizon’s) is slow. Sprint has major network upgrades to complete to try to compete with all the other carriers. It’s bad when the 5th largest carrier has faster speeds and better implementation than the 3rd largest (until 4Q numbers are revealed) carrier.

        • Verizonthunder

          It’s laughable my brother and his wife left sprint due to bad service both network reliability / customer service. Now on T-Mobile with better coverage, customer service and for two lines unlimited talk text data with 5gb of mobile hotspot we have a winner.

        • brownsbacker

          Just switched to the 2/$100 unlimited. Changed over my AtHome line to another cell line. Now two truly unlimited lines for $10 more than what I was paying. Never used my home service anyway. Kept it for ‘Just in case’.

        • Verizonthunder

          Nice and you could just use your home phone line for mobile hotspot use sense only telemarketers call lane lines which you could block with a smartphone and use an app called Extreme Call Blocker for Android which really works even prevents them from leaving a voicemail.

    • Jay Holm

      I like your loyalty ideas! This coming April will be 2 full years for me with T-Mobile.

      • Verizonthunder

        Thanks I think it would be a great incentive for loyal T-Mobile customers current and new who are tired of the business game.

  • pda96

    Keep up the good work. But hurry up and cover the I-15 corridor between Corona and Las Vegas with LTE already.

    • Cam Fas

      Tell me about that I really have my fingers crossed for this 2015 summer 1900 mhz edge to lte completion Vegas to searchlight needs lte at least in searchlight I’m often waiting for grandparents out at the chevron and the edge is not usable at that location

      • pda96

        According to their 700MHz map, this area will be covered up to the CA/NV border. This is exactly what I’d like to see. However, who knows how long it will take for TMO to set up cell towers for this. Once you cross into NV (i.e. Primm), you already have 4G coverage, I believe.

  • Texas Rebel

    Buy out your roaming partners like Cellular One in East Texas and light up the towers with LTE. Cellular One is a joke of a carrier. Still running Edge data on their towers with no 3G or 4G.

    Also be glad when all their towers along I-20 in East Texas are 4G/LTE and not the GPRS that I’m always getting.

    • maximus1901

      Sorry to burst your bubble but TMO is also running edge on majority of their geographic footprint.
      Was just in big bear lake, ca – huge tourist town – and got edge in main downtown walking area.

      • Timothy Wallis

        What phone are you using? It could be possible that they have LTE there, but your phone can’t get it.

        • maximus1901

          No. Wife has moto g lte and when we crossed the bridge north, it got lte. But in the main shopping area south of lake it’s unusable edge. There’s no data whatsoever. At least the voice works.
          I was right next to a TMO cell site but only edge.

      • dtam

        there are plans/ongoing upgrades from EDGE to LTE though

      • Cam Fas

        I as at big bear lake airport this past summer and had 50mbs lte signal was strong full bars and it was on an iPhone 5s at the time now with my 6plus I’m interested in seeing what I can get

      • Jay J. Blanco

        I always check by switching my phone to gsm/lte mode when I travel outside of a city, because leaving your phone on auto mode it isn’t going to search for lte band 2 on half the time. And always check sensorly to see if someone picked up lte when you travel.

        • maximus1901

          I toggled numerous times.

        • Jay J. Blanco

          If you don’t catch lte. Then I’m pretty sure t-mobile will get ththat area soon.

      • yenn

        Agree last fall in went to big bear and my HTC one m7 didn’t have any lte. Only 2g. Now my z3 has strong signal of lte but 1900 mhz

      • Texas Rebel

        I know they run Edge still.. Hell they still have GPRS which is slower than Edge. I suspect it will be some time before T-Mobile has all their 700Mhz spectrum lit up in the East Texas area. I work in Dallas and live in the sticks. T-Mobile starts rocking when you are between Dallas and Terrell. Going further east and it’s hit or miss. Where I live Cellular One shows up on the phone. 5 bars of signal, but nothing but Edge. That’s where WiFi calling shines.

        Lucky me I’ve got a Grandfathered Verizon Unlimited Data plan that I use strictly for Internet for the whole house. 25Mbps down and 10Mbps up. SIM card is in a USB modem attached to a Cradlepoint 4G router. I run my WiFi calling over that connection..

      • donnybee

        If T-Mobile’s plans are anything to count on, and I think the past two years have proved they are, we will be seeing the switch from 2G to 4G on “all” their footprint by mid-2015. That’s only another 6-7 months. Seems short, but we haven’t been given a reason to doubt the timelines put in place by the network engineering team at T-Mo yet!

        • maximus1901

          If a tower is lte 1900 and gsm 1900 only, that means it’s a ground mount site which means no remote radio head which means lte signal greatly reduced range.

        • Mr Paul

          And many people have noted T-Mobile’s LTE upgrades hinder range greatly.

  • Justsomecommenter

    “What’s next, for 2015?
    In short: More of the same please, John.”
    I say, make it even better!

  • sushimane

    Question to anybody that use Rhapsody unradio is there a way you make your own play list or would you need to upgrade to make it? i just switch to the select choice plan with unlimited data got a text saying that rhapsody unradio is included in the plan. thanks

    • AA-Ron

      You can’t make your own playlists. You can only make one favorite songs list that allows you to save up to 25 tracks to listen on or offline. If you want playlist capabilities, you have to subscribe to the $6 premium plan.

      • sushimane

        OK thanks.

  • Cam Fas

    Been a great year indeed I’m most excited about the 1900mhz expansion being possibly completed by next summer this is the most important becuses I usally have service in most areas of the country but many are edge so getting lte to the edge areas is a win next I’m excited about the 700mhz expansion guess by the next iPhone upgrade I will have a device that can use it and by that time next year it should be live in areas I travel other then that keep up the good work a complete lte network is what I can’t wait for especially for the areas surrounding Las Vegas and Connifer Colorado visiting the father in law in Connifer is only painful when traveling up the mountains and the edge is unusable in that area

  • Rick Rudge

    A very good year in review posting, Cam. But you forgot the biggest T-Mobile news; the failed buy-out attempt by Sprint. I could see forgetting that French company’s attempt, but not Sprint’s. Other than that, it was a great posting and I’m looking forward to 2015. :-)

    • UMA_Fan

      Legree has essentially said out loud tmobile was never a take over target. If sprint and tmobile were to merge it would be sprint getting taken over.

  • Jay Holm

    I think the best places to get 700mhz spectrum is in places where T-Mobile doesn’t currently have any coverage at all. Also, in the 2015 what I’m looking forward to is hopefully some tri-band carrier aggregation LTE!!! And T-Mobile passing the 60 million customer mark, probably sometime in the 2nd half of the year. And keep giving the big 2 some really hard competition!!!

    • Jay J. Blanco

      I definitely want to see tmo overtake Sprint. Can’t wait until the next Quarterly Report

    • RefarmAllPCSNowPlease

      Yes, Triband carrier aggregation!

      The interference of channel 51 is on the uplink (reverse link) but not in the downlink. If channel 51 is still holding back an area, T-Mobile can use the spectrum as supplemental bandwidth for download like Band 29 of at&t. Show other carriers how to utilize that spectrum they have been hoarding while crying “can’t use it; there’s interference” nonsense.

      Lease some 700Mhz spectrum from US Cellular and Cspire. US Cellular is playing the Verizon game of not deploying LTE without deploying the antiquated cdma first. Since they have 700MHz spectrum in many places they don’t have cellular (850Mhz) license, they might as well lend it to T-Mobile, if they don’t want to sell it.

      Force manufacturers and Qualcomm to enable the dormant Band 12 capabilities of previous cellphones. Even the old Snapdragon S4 chipsets are Band 12 capable, it’s just a matter of enabling it with a new firmware. While they’re at it, might as well include next-gen wifi calling. Lobby fcc to ease the approval process. FCC would like competition anyway (right???).

      These are not easy but hard and daring are what make an uncarrier

  • Marco

    I honestly want to see free internet and text on cruise lines

    • NMoosekeys

      That’s not going to happen as when you’re on a cruise you’re using their towers and thats why they charge out the a$$

    • Mike Palomba

      Yea that won’t happen but if the cruise ship has wifi then you’ll be ok because you have wifi calling and texting

  • k

    Coverage parity definitely needs to be no.1. Competition is increasing as it seems like Sprint is getting their act together, slowly but surely. No.2 is getting more phones that can handle Band 12 AND VoLTE. No.3 is Faster rollout of software upgrades (e.g. Lollipop).

  • Raiterio Patterson

    My favorite Uncarrier 7.0 WiFi unleaded! Back in May 2014, I bought an iPhone 4s to use with T-Mobile; only got 2G called CSR to put in a service ticket, they said call back in 3 days. Called back, they said coverage is spotty, could take up to 6 months to fix.. Well, I returned the 4s & got a Nexus 5 so far so good at my job & I have WiFi at home. Recently got 10Mhz of LTE on band 4 which is great. (NC kinda sucks because of several rural areas). Fast Forward 6 months I bought the iPhone 5s, reception is golden! Noticed that HSPA are slow as fcuk, called CSR again put in another service ticket, got the same, “coverage is spotty, should improve in 6 months” but I don’t care. Most places I travel to I get LTE, so yea WiFi calling is a blessing! Keep it up T-Mobile!!

  • Patrick Dodd

    I just spoke with a representative and they stated that they do not give customers this. Although i was mistaken i am at two years in feb. it must’ve been when i transferred from one plan to my own. but either way i was told i was unable to receive this and neither can anyone else. Maybe they just didn’t want to release the information. But that document there states 3 years so maybe in a year I will be good. we will see.

    • Robert

      Best of luck :)

    • snamy

      do you pay all of your bills on time?

  • CalicoKJ

    I wouldn’t count on coverage improving before mid-2015 (as they dismantle the 2G network), and even that may not help too much. If you’re in a 700Mhz area without Channel 51 restrictions you hopefully will see significant improvement when that’s turned on.
    (This coming from someone who runs out of roaming data in just under 2 weeks with my daily commute because deathstar has upgraded in my area so my phone grabs that rather than the itty-bitty T-Mo signal. Once I have WiFi, I’m just fine. :) )

  • bullet7

    Network network network! Continue strengthening the rural network, it needs to go beyond the interstates. Love seeing these 2G towers being switched to 4G. Expand to new areas.