With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile has begun lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. Those deployments and other network upgrades will increase T-Mobile’s total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million.
By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
In an ex parte meeting with FCC personnel, T-Mobile officials said they expect to have at least 10 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum ready for deployment across “more than one million square miles” by the end of this year, including “hundreds of thousands of square miles” of rural areas.
T-Mo CTO Neville Ray applauded the speed of the deployment effort in the 600 MHz frequencies.
“This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process,” said Ray said. “We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!”
The operator is using “low-band” spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year, and yesterday’s announcement came two months after the carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.
The speed of T-Mobile’s rollout is no accident. In February 2016, T-Mobile, in conjunction with Broadcast Tower Technologies and Hammett & Edison, set out a plan to maximize the resources needed to move the TV broadcasters from the band and rollout the needed technology.
T-Mobile worked with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to ensure the right transmitter and handset technology would be available when the rollout began. It is also collaborating with the FCC and broadcasters such as the Public Broadcasting System to quickly clear the spectrum.
Moreover, T-Mobile worked with Electronics Research to make sure that adequate broadcast antennas and installation crews would be available for the TV stations’ move to new spectrum. Antenna production capacity was increased by 800 percent by the end of 2016, and production began at the end of the auction when new channels were assigned to broadcasters.
Additionally, T-Mobile went above and beyond the FCC’s spectrum clearing requirements of the auction winner, committing to pay for new low-power facilities used by local public television stations that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies because of the auction.
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.
July 18, 2017 —
While the Washington Nationals easily handled the Seattle Mariners during a recent game, the real contest was between performances of the cellular networks and the Wi-Fi system as they battled to provide the best online experience.
During a recent major league baseball game at Washington Nationals Park, independent network benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) conducted customer experience mobile network testing. The tests revealed that, both before and during the game, the Wi-Fi system excelled in the area of speed but fell behind cellular when it came to reliability.
Paul Carter, CEO GWS, said, “People want a reliable network with reasonable speed that works when you make a call, post a selfie, or load a video. If you’re at a major sporting event, you want to quickly take care of your online activities and watch the game not your phone.”
Before the game, the carriers’ data speeds for a 4 mb file upload (the size of a Snapchat video) ranged from 1 to 4 Mbps, according to Global Wireless Solutions, while the Wi-Fi network averaged speeds of 8 Mbps.
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile also provided consistent speeds throughout the evening, while Verizon’s speeds dropped sharply during the game, according to GWS’ testing. For example, Verizon’s download speeds for watching a short video clip fell from 2.8 Mbps before the game to 1.6 Mbps during the game, before rising to 4.2 Mbps after the game
Wi-Fi Speed Crushes Cellular
During the game when the Park was the busiest, the Wi-Fi network was capable of delivering an average of roughly 32 Mbps, while the fastest cellular network, AT&T, averaged 25 Mbps.
“The $300-million program to bring Wi-Fi to every major league baseball park in the United States has brought in-seat connectivity into the 21st century,” the firm wrote. “When measuring potential capacity download throughputs, the Nationals Park Wi-Fi network was overall higher than those measured on cellular networks.
Cellular Owns Reliability
However, while the Park’s Wi-Fi was the quickest, it was not the most reliable. All the carriers were more reliable in completing data tasks, nearly 100 percent, while Wi-Fi was several percentage points behind.
“A consistent Internet experience is highly valued. Steady with reasonable speed is a better experience than a network which is fast, then becomes too slow to undertake some common tasks, then suddenly speeds up again,” Carter, said. “If you want to share a photo or send a video, you want your network to support that dependably. For some baseball fans, the WiFi network in the Park can provide a better experience than their own LTE connection.”
For voice calls AT&T, Sprint and Verizon all had 100 percent reliability with AT&T and Verizon using VoLTE the entire time. T-Mobile, also using VoLTE, wasn’t far behind, however, it did experience 1 in 12 calls failing before the game started.
July 6, 2017 —
T-Mobile, which has recently laid claim to the 600 MHz band for 5G, has set its sights on including 3.5 GHz in with the 5G spectrum ecosystem. The carrier has petitioned the FCC to look at modifying the rules governing 3550-3700 MHz, known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service to better facilitate 5G technologies.
T-Mobile’s Petition of Rule Making asks the FCC to auction all 150 megahertz of the spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band to the Priority Access License (PAL) licensees while maintaining opportunities to licensed-by-rule licensees using the spectrum access system.
In a blog post this week, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray made the case that the FCC needs to look to more bands other than the millimeter band to achieve the promise of 5G, and he said 3.5 GHz fits that bill.
“3.5 GHz Is great mid-band spectrum for 5G. As the current FCC has recognized, a balanced spectrum portfolio, including mid-band spectrum – between 1 GHz and 6 GHz – is essential to ensure the United States has complete 5G networks,” Ray wrote. “It has better coverage characteristics than high-band spectrum, meaning that it can help deliver the promise of 5G to rural areas.”
The Petition notes that while 5G technologies are expected to use 40-50 megahertz channels, the FCC’s CBRS rules limit PALS to 70 megahertz per market. That licensing structure would limit the number of carriers to one per market, which would strip OEMs of the impetus to make handsets for the band, T-Mobile said.
“In order to optimize the 3.5 GHz band for 5G, there must be an opportunity for multiple carriers to aggregate larger bandwidths,” T-Mobile writes.
Additionally, the 3.5 GHz band is adjacent to spectrum that has been proposed for 5G in Sen. Thune’s MOBILE NOW legislation (between 3100 MHz and 3550 MHz and 3700-4200 MHz). Ray notes that CBRS coupled with the Mobile NOW spectrum would equal 1100 megahertz of spectrum, which he refers to as a “great start.”
June 29, 2017 —
T-Mobile and AT&T are moving forward aggressively using License Assisted Access (LAA) and LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U).
T-Mobile completed its first mobile broadband data session live in the field using License Assisted Access (LAA) on its commercial network in Los Angeles recording 741 Mbps download speeds using 80 MHz of aggregated spectrum.
Meanwhile, in a separate LTE-LAA field trial, AT&T and Ericsson reached speeds of more than 650 Mbps in San Francisco.
“It’s a positive for the wireless infrastructure industry,” Ted Abrams, founder and principal of Abrams Wireless, said. “It will enjoy additional revenues because of LAA and LTE-U because at each fixed site new radio transceivers need to be installed to carry the signal.”
LAA and LTE-U aggregate unlicensed and licensed spectrum to create a better link between the base facility at the tower or small cell node and the user’s handset. Both technologies also had to be designed to coexist with unlicensed technologies to guard against interference.
Earlier this year, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology authorized the first LTE-U devices in the 5 GHz band.
LAA vs. LTE-U
On the same day that T-Mobile announced its LAA achievement, it reported that it is live with LTE-U, which requires a specialized proprietary chipset developed by Qualcomm, in select locations in its commercial networks in Bellevue, Washington; Brooklyn, New York; Dearborn, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Richardson, Texas; and Simi Valley, California. More LTE-U capable sites will be rolled out later this year.
Both LTE-U and LAA extend LTE into unlicensed. LTE-U was introduced by 3GPP in Release 12 of its LTE standard and LAA was included in Release 13 of the LTE standard.
A mobile operator using LAA can support Gigabit Class LTE with as little as 20 megahertz of licensed spectrum, according to Qualcomm. LAA enables greater carrier aggregation than LTE-U, so mobile operators can combine larger amounts of unlicensed and licensed spectrum, according to T-Mobile.
AT&T called the testing of LTE-LAA technology a milestone on its way to 5G technology. The carrier’s initial LTE-LAA rollout is planned by the end of the year, when it hopes to reach gigabit speeds.
“LTE-LAA technology is expected to play a key role as we aim to reach theoretical peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some small cell sites by the end of the year. It’s also one of the technologies we’re using to enhance the network and boost speeds in our 5G Evolution markets,” Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, said.
Verizon, which began the LTE-U Forum in 2014 with Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, has been quiet on this front. In mid April it asked the FCC for permission to extend its LTE-U testing, according to RCR Wireless News.
Other LTE-U, LAA News
May 22, 2017 —
Representatives of T-Mobile promised at the 4th Annual MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit, held last week in New York, that any M&A activity would only be executed if shareholder value could be maximized. Then they engaged in a very convincing conversation about how good a Sprint hook up might be for shareholders.
Craig Moffett, senior research analyst, MoffettNathanson, interviewed three officials from T-Mobile, Braxton Carter, chief financial officer; Peter Ewans, corporate strategy; and Mike Sievert, chief operating officer.
When asked about M&A plans, the T-Mobile executives made it clear that if the carrier engaged in a merger, it would be coming from a position of strength with a high amount of confidence. Carter said that the carrier is happy with the performance of its brand, team and business model.
Led by outspoken John Legere, T-Mobile revels in its iconoclastic role as the outsider that forces change upon Verizon and AT&T. Nevertheless, merging with Sprint and becoming the third nationwide powerhouse looks enticing.
“Could there be an advantage in turbocharging our challenger position in the marketplace with increased capabilities from a potential partner through a merger or by combining in some way? Absolutely!” Sievert said. “There is a chance [that a merger would] enhance shareholder value on top of a business that is already performing well.”
Sievert reiterated the belief that both Charlie Ergen’s DISH Network and Sprint are both seeking a buildout partner, noting the impact of FCC buildout deadlines on the former and the “precarious” nature of the latter’s finances. Carter added that at the current pace Sprint’s 2.5 GHz rollout would take a decade.
“A combined company [T-Mobile/Sprint] would have the resources to put all that spectrum to work,” Sievert said. “We are really excited about the potential deals, potential value, potential synergies to unlock. We are going to work hard to see if anything needs to be done.
Sprint would be a “huge prize” in terms of hard synergies, which are primarily network driven, with a “treasure trove” of 2.5 GHz spectrum, according to Carter. The benefits of that type of scale, which could put T-Mobile on par with AT&T and Verizon, are hard to ignore.
“By truly creating a third scale national competitor, you can achieve the margin potential leveraging the fixed costs of the business that both AT&T and Verizon have,” Carter said. “Putting our networks together would truly give us the densification necessary to ubiquitously deploy that 2.5 GHz spectrum.”
Carter pointed to the successful Metro PCS merger as proof that the carrier could successfully combine its network with Sprint’s.
Toward the end of the interview, the T-Mobile panelists opened the M&A conversation to the wider sphere of possible players, including Comcast, Charter, Amazon and other “cable” providers.
“It is absurd to say that there are only four players in the [wireless] market,” Carter said. “There are multiple players coming, which will change the way the market is viewed from a regulatory standpoint.”
Carter ruminated on the shareholder value that would be created by a hook up of T-Mobile and Sprint with a coalition of Comcast and Charter.
“I totally believe in convergence. There is amazing potential,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it is wireless or wired. The blending of those two models of business is going to change our world.”
Sievert noted that users do not care where they get their content from whether it is from wireless industry, cable industry or the media industry.
“They don’t care what you put in the ground ten years ago; they just want their content and they want it delivered everywhere. Our job is to create a mobile internet company,” he said.