T-Mobile's Ray: We will be first carrier to deploy integrated radios in N. America

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BARCELONA, Spain--A T-Mobile USA executive predicted that the company will be the first mobile operator in North America to deploy integrated radios. In an interview with FierceWireless, T-Mobile USA CTO Neville Ray said that the integrated radios will be critical to T-Mobile's network modernization project and its deployment of LTE Release 10 because the radios will make the cell siting process much easier.

Integrated radios are a growing trend among infrastructure vendors. By integrating the antenna and the radio, power consumption can be reduced and less space is required on the tower. T-Mobile has not yet announced its vendors for the network modernization plan, but Ray said he expects to have them selected in the next few weeks. He noted that the company developed its network modernization plan in just eight weeks and is moving ahead with it as quickly as possible. "We are pushing as hard as we can," he said.

T-Mobile currently operates an HSPA+42 network covering 184 million POPs and an HSPA+21 network covering more than 200 million POPs. The company announced last week that it will have enough spectrum to deploy LTE by 2013 in 75 percent of the top 25 markets using AWS spectrum that it expects to receive as part of the $6 billion breakup fee from AT&T's (NYSE:T)  failed acquisition of T-Mobile. The FCC still needs to approve the spectrum transfer. The company plans to install new equipment at 37,000 cell sites as part of that project.  In addition, it will deploy HSPA+ in its PCS 1900 MHz spectrum band, which it is currently using for 2G GSM services (the carrier's HSPA+ network runs on T-Mobile's 1700 MHz AWS spectrum).

Ray also said that T-Mobile will be able to differentiate its LTE service from the competition--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) currently covers 200 million POPs with LTE, and AT&T covers 74 million with LTE--because it will be deploying LTE Release 10 gear and will be able to quickly upgrade to LTE Advanced via a software upgrade. Ray said that other operators have not deployed LTE Release 10 gear but instead have deployed LTE Release 8.

Ray confirmed that the company will continue to support 2G customers as it refarms the 1900 MHz spectrum.  He added that T-Mobile has no plans to decommission the GSM network because it provides a compelling international roaming revenue stream and is home to numerous M2M customers.

In addition, Ray said that T-Mobile is still considering HSPA+ 84 technology but has made no commitments. He noted that many chipset vendors have not included HSPA+84 in their roadmap, so producing devices could be a challenge. However, he said there is still time for the ecosystem to develop.

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