Recently, T-Mobile spent $8 billion on new low-band spectrum to improve its wireless network. And as of a couple of days ago, that network is online. Cheyenne, Wyoming is the first place in the country to use T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network. They are calling it a “cluster site”. T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer, Neville Ray has described this rollout as a “massive milestone” for T-Mobile and one that should make significant impact on closing the gap between T-Mobile and Verizon.
Calling this a “massive milestone” is actually an understatement. This kind of project typically takes years. For example, in 2008 Verizon bought 700 MHz spectrume from the FCC in a similar auction. But they weren’t able to turn the network on until 2010. The FCC only granted the licences in June, so for T-Mobile to have this up and running by August is nothing short of incredible.
The 600 MHz spectrum is going to be huge for T-Mobile as it will fix the network’s coverage problems. In general, the lower the frequency, the better the coverage. Lower frequency radio waves travel further and can penetrate objects better, which means better coverage in rural areas and inside of building. Which is where Verizon’s network is currently excelling, because of the low band spectrum.
The Wyoming site that was launched earlier this week is the first of many that should be live by the end of the year. The image above shows where T-Mobile is planning on expanding that coverage in 2017. It also shows it’s current coverage, so you can see how it will change. Which is great news for people living in Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Main, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington. (Which is a lot!)
This roll out is challenging for T-Mobile because there are TV stations using the same spectrum. Those stations are moving to different frequencies, and T-Mobile is actually paying to help that process along. After all, they want to be able to use the frequency, so it only makes sense.
A major drawback, if you’re an existing T-Mobile customer is that you’re not going to be able to utilize this service. Unless, you upgrade your phone. Because 600 MHz hasn’t been used for LTE anywhere in the world, there aren’t any devices that support it. Ray has confirmed, however, that Samsung and LG will have phones in stores by the end of the year that support 600 MHz. And, its expected that more devices will get on board for 2018.
This is a really exciting time for T-Mobile customers. And anyone, I would say, as this could open up to a great deal of other possibilities. But in the short term, it’s a great time to be a T-Mobile customer. I suspect this will entice some people to move over to their service. It’s a great perk, don’t you think? We should also note that right now, T-Mobile has equal (or better) service to Verizon and AT&T on download speed. But they’re still a bit behind on coverage. This 600 MHz deployment will close that coverage gap for sure. Your move Verizon and AT&T.