When it comes to expanding LTE coverage, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and General Communication (GCI) may have found a match made in heaven, as the former needs to extend its service to more rural and remote areas while the latter needs coverage outside of its home stomping ground in Alaska.
GCI cagily announced that it had signed an LTE roaming partnership with a "national wireless operator" that it did not name. However, the company subsequently confirmed to Multichannel News that its new partner is T-Mobile, and a T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed the roaming pact to Light Reading. T-Mobile is "looking forward to launching additional LTE roaming services with more of our roaming partners in the near future," added the spokesperson.
"GCI is committed to meeting the growing technology needs of Alaskans, and now our capabilities of providing top data speeds on a LTE network is extended across the country," said Paul Landes, GCI senior vice president and general manager of consumer services.
T-Mobile's 3G and LTE networks have ranked highly in independent tests, though the company is often faulted for having poor rural coverage, as it was in recent tests conducted by PCMag. Further, the operator has been noticeably slower to initiate LTE roaming than Tier 1 players Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint (NYSE: S). Verizon has 21 LTE roaming partners, 18 of which have launched LTE service. Sprint, meanwhile, earlier this month added 15 new rural wireless carrier partners to its existing portfolio of LTE roaming partners, growing the size of its LTE roaming footprint by more than 4 million POPs.
At the end of July, T-Mobile said it covered 233 million POPs with LTE and aims to cover at least 250 million by the end of 2014. The company intends to cover more than 280 million POPs with LTE by mid-2015. T-Mobile ended the second quarter with 50.5 million subscribers, while GCI said (PDF) it had 143,400 total wireless lines in service at the end of the quarter.
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