T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is not forcing smartphone makers to drop support for its 700 MHz A Block spectrum using LTE Band 12, as some reports have indicated, but it does require that OEMs that want to include Band 12 support also support Voice over LTE and E911 capabilities.
The carrier clarified its position after an Android Police article claimed that, according to a post on Reddit, a Motorola Mobility support representative said that Motorola dropped support for Band 12 in the new Moto E phone because it also did not support VoLTE -- at the behest of T-Mobile.
T-Mobile spokesman Viet Nguyen said that T-Mobile does not have a policy of asking device partners to pull Band 12 support. Motorola, in the process of developing a Band 12-capable device, did not fully go through the carrier's VoLTE and E911 certification process, and the OEM apparently decided to drop Band 12 support as a result.
"We are all about giving customers the best wireless experience possible. That includes the latest and greatest devices, with the latest technology," T-Mobile said in a statement to FierceWireless. "To ensure a high level of quality in all of our devices, we require every device go through a rigorous certification process.
"Specifically, we require phones using Band 12 on T-Mobile to support E911 and VoLTE in order to be certified on our network," T-Mobile added. "We do this in the interest of our customers' overall experience and safety."
T-Mobile said its devices will scan for both T-Mobile and, if necessary, other carriers' bands when customers are trying to make emergency calls. When using Band 12, VoLTE is required to ensure the emergency call will be completed, the carrier said.
"Every OEM has the option to support VoLTE and E911 or not," T-Mobile said. "It's their decision, though obviously, we hope that every OEM will choose to support these features and get certified on our network."
Nguyen told FierceWireless that "there's only been one device from an OEM" where the device maker has wanted to include Band 12 support but not go through T-Mobile's certification process. "The Moto E does not support VoLTE and E911, though as soon as it does, we hope to be able to activate Band 12 on the Moto E again," he said. "We're very transparent with our partners that Band 12 certification must also come with support for VoLTE and E911."
T-Mobile said earlier this month it had 8.4 million VoLTE customers as of July, up from 2 million at the start of 2015. T-Mobile had 58.9 million total customers at the end of the second quarter.
Last month T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said that the LTE in 700 MHz deployment now covers 130 million POPs and that the company will get close to 190 million POPs by the end of the year. Importantly, Ray said that his goal is to have 50 percent of the company's subscriber base on a device that supports 700 MHz spectrum by the end of the year, which he said will improve coverage and in-building performance for customers. T-Mobile executives said they expected the continued deployment of 700 MHz spectrum to improve network performance and lead to lower churn.
Around 98 percent of the population covered by the company's 700 MHz spectrum is free and clear and ready to be deployed or will be ready for deployment in 2015. In the second half of the year, T-Mobile will deploy the airwaves in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Portland and Sacramento, among other markets.
- see this TMoNews article
- see these two separate Android Police articles
Verizon's Small: We have close to 4M VoLTE customers
T-Mobile's Legere open to partnering with Google, Comcast as more firms get into mobile
Report: Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile show significant voice quality improvements in test of VoLTE networks
T-Mobile appears set to bring 700 MHz LTE service to NYC area
T-Mobile hopes to deploy LTE in all of its 700 MHz A Block spectrum this year
Correction, Aug. 31, 2015: This article incorrectly stated that if a T-Mobile Band 12-capable phone does not have VoLTE and E911 capabilities and is out of range of both a Band 12 signal and other T-Mobile spectrum bands, it will not know to default to roam on other carriers' networks. In fact, T-Mobile said its devices will scan for both T-Mobile and, if necessary, other carriers' bands when customers are trying to make emergency calls. When using Band 12, VoLTE is required to ensure the emergency call will be completed.