August 1, 2014 — T-Mobile is aggressively rolling out LTE in the 700 MHz A-Block, achieving coverage of 158 million people or about 50 percent of the population and 70 percent of the existing T-Mobile customer base. Nine of the top 10 and 21 of the top 30 metros have coverage.
“I’m thrilled to report that the first 700 megahertz sites are already on air,” said John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO. “Compatible handsets are being field tested right now and are expected to be available for sale by the fourth quarter.”
Not the entire A-Block spectrum block is currently available. Half of the markets covered by A-Block spectrum are encumbered by Channel 51, which limits T-Mobile’s ability to use the spectrum until the incumbent broadcasters are relocated. However, agreements have been signed to relocate broadcasters in five markets covering more than 13 million people, which will be available for launch in 2015.
Additionally, T-Mobile has acquired A-Block spectrum in multiple markets covering 8.7 million in population for $50.5 million. The average megahertz per POP price of approximately $0.48 compared to $1.85 per megahertz POP price T-Mobile paid in the Verizon A-Block transaction.
T-Mobile has also begun its LTE network expansion on its limited remaining 2G footprint lighting up its first 1.9 GHz LTE sites. The LTE rollout should cover more than 280 million people with by mid-2015.
At the Speed of LTE
T-Mobile maintained its position that it is the fastest network in the second quarter, according to Legere, with average download speeds of 19.3 megabits per second. The carrier based its claims on its analysis of crowd sourced LTE data.
“We continue to amp up our speed as we commit more spectrum to LTE and upgrade our cell site backhaul,” he said. “We’ve now rolled out 10×10 4G LTE in 43 of the top 50 metro areas, and we continue to grow our wideband LTE footprint, currently covering 17 metro areas and aiming for at least 26 by year end. As a reminder, with wideband LTE, customers are regularly observing speeds into 70 megabits per second range. Our network’s speed is simply incredible.”
Capex, Down Year Over Year, Will Ramp Later in 2014
T-Mobile spent $940 million on capex in the second quarter, which was flat compared to the first quarter ($947 million) and down 15 percent from $1.1 billion in Q2 2013. First-half 2014 was $1.8 billion and full-year capex is projected to be between $4.3 billion and $4.6 billion, according to J. Braxton Carter, chief financial officer.
“There will be a bit of a ramp up later in the year as we shut down the CDMA portions of the MetroPCS network and continue the rollout of 700 MHz and the deployment of 4G LTE on the 1.9 GHz PCS spectrum,” Carter said. “We continue to see the benefits of our spend as our 4G LTE network, the fastest in the nation, covers more than 233 million people in 325 metro areas.”
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link. He is also an occasional contributor to AGL magazine.