T-Mobile extends 600 MHz rollout to over 900 markets

T-Mobile plans to bring LTE to Puerto Rico this fall using its 600 MHz spectrum. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile says it has deployed its 600 MHz spectrum in more than 900 U.S. cities and towns, 120 of which were not previously served by the carrier. Omaha, Nebraska; Augusta, Maine; and Los Alamos, New Mexico are among the cities served by T-Mobile using its newest low-band spectrum. In addition, T-Mobile says it is deploying 600 MHz LTE throughout Puerto Rico.

To access T-Mobile's 600 MHz network, customers currently need an Android phone made by Samsung or LG. The phones that support these bands on the T-Mobile network are the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Samsung Galaxy S9+, the LG G7 Thin Q, the LG K30, the LG V30 and the LG V30+.

Extended range LTE is the name T-Mobile has assigned to its low-band service. The carrier says LTE signals travel twice as far from the tower and are "four times better in buildings than midband LTE." T-Mobile says 80% of the American population has access to extended range LTE through its 700 MHz spectrum, and the company is using the 600 MHz band to expand further. T-Mobile also holds midband spectrum, and this month the carrier plans to enable carrier aggregation for midband LTE and 600 MHz.  

RELATED: T-Mobile spending more on 600 MHz build-out than expected

The FCC transferred spectrum in the 600 MHz band from the broadcast industry to the wireless industry through a complex reverse auction in which broadcasters bid to set their sales prices and carriers then bid to buy the spectrum. In the end, T-Mobile was the only carrier to end up with a significant amount of this low-band spectrum. AT&T purchased a number of licenses, which it later sold. 

Some carriers may have been less willing to invest in 600 MHz spectrum than expected because they are currently testing 5G in higher-band frequencies. T-Mobile, however, has said it will deploy 5G using 600 MHz bands as well as millimeter wave bands.

Before it can build out its 600 MHz network, T-Mobile needs the broadcasters to "clear the spectrum," and this usually means climbing the broadcast towers and removing antennas. Broadcast towers are typically much taller than cell towers and not all tower technicians are trained to scale these structures. 

Once the spectrum has been cleared in a market, T-Mobile can place its 600 MHz antennas on cell towers in the area. 

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the distinction between broadcast towers and cell towers.