T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) claims it will soon have the fastest U.S. wireless network, but it likely will never have the largest. T-Mobile, whose LTE network currently covers around 202 million POPs, plans to expand LTE coverage at around 225 million people. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray recently told CNET that the company would end 2013 covering 205 million people with LTE and reach 225 million to 230 million by the end of its current plan. That is not that surprising, since that level of coverage is where T-Mobile has stopped with its HSPA+ network.
However, T-Mobile spokeswoman Alex Schwerin clarified to FierceWireless that while the goal of 225 million POPs in 2014 is what the carrier has announced to date, that will not mark the end of T-Mobile's LTE rollout. "We will expand LTE over time, and as we have clearly demonstrated already, we will execute quickly," she said. "We simply haven't yet announced LTE expansion plans beyond 225 million POPs."
"We do have plans to expand beyond that," she added. "We will, and we will do it quickly."
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) already covers more than 300 million POPs with its LTE network, and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) aims to hit 270 million by year-end and 300 million by mid-2014. Sprint (NYSE:S) is aiming to cover 200 million POPs with LTE by year-end but has not yet specified a coverage goal beyond that.
However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, as part of the breakup fee when AT&T's $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile fell apart amid regulatory pressure in 2011, the companies struck a seven-year UMTS roaming agreements that will allow T-Mobile to expand its coverage to 280 million POPs. T-Mobile has heavily criticized AT&T's network in its marketing in recent months as being slow and overloaded, but that network could be the one T-Mobile customers wind up roaming on for 3G coverage outside of T-Mobile's LTE footprint. Article (sub. req.)
Article updated Oct. 14 at 1:30 p.m. ET to clarify T-Mobile's LTE coverage expansion plans.