T-Mobile boasts of lead in LTE Advanced

T-Mobile USA will be able to move to LTE Advanced faster than its larger rivals because its network equipment and Radio Access Network are already capable of supporting LTE Advanced, even though it only just launched its initial LTE service earlier this month, according to a T-Mobile executive.

"I think we'll probably be able to move faster [to LTE Advanced] because we have the latest hardware in place," Yasmin Karimli, head of T-Mobile's radio network and evolution strategy, told VentureBeat. "Others may have hardware that's two years old, so they may have to rip and replace."

T-Mobile executives have long boasted about the company's network even though T-Mobile is late to the game in terms of deploying LTE--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) also operate LTE networks in various stages of deployment. Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks are T-Mobile's primary LTE infrastructure vendors and have been installing LTE Release 10-capable equipment at 37,000 cell sites across T-Mobile's network footprint.

Release 10 supports LTE Advanced features including carrier aggregation, which may be among the most important technologies for operators. In essence carrier aggregation can make spectrum pipes fatter by merging together non-contiguous spectrum bands. By bonding non-contiguous spectrum into a single, wider channel, carriers can address the asymmetry of data flows between downlink and uplink channels. The result is faster speeds.

T-Mobile's LTE network is now live in seven markets on its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum, including Baltimore; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. T-Mobile CEO John Legere promised that New York City will be online with LTE by early summer. The carrier plans to cover 100 million POPs with LTE by mid-2013 and 200 million by year-end. Legere said that when T-Mobile merges with MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), T-Mobile will be able to deploy 2X20 MHz LTE in 90 percent of the top 25 U.S. markets. (MetroPCS shareholders will vote on the deal tomorrow.)

Other carriers have discussed LTE Advanced as part of their roadmaps but have not been specific about when they will commit to launching LTE Advanced. AT&T has said it expects to launch LTE Advanced sometime this year. A spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Verizon has said it expects its initial LTE deployment to be finished by mid-year. Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer told FierceWireless in February that "LTE Advanced is a set of capabilities that improves performance on LTE. It provides greater speeds or greater capacity. It's not rocket science. It's not 5G. It's following the 4G standard. And we will be there with 4G LTE Advanced." Verizon does plan to deploy 200 LTE small cells this year, which is part of its larger LTE Advanced strategy.

A Verizon spokesman declined to say if Verizon would deploy LTE Advanced this year or in 2014. "We are actively involved with our technology partners on LTE Advanced," spokesman Tom Pica told FierceWireless. "When LTE Advanced is ready for prime time, Verizon Wireless will lead the deployment charge, as we have done with 4G LTE."

Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter told FierceWireless that while "T-Mobile asserted that most of the carrier's equipment is two years old and they may have to 'rip and replace.' As you know, that is certainly not the case for Sprint."

She noted that while LTE Advanced is often thought of as a single release (Release 10), it is actually eight to 10 features that will span multiple releases. She said Sprint already has "several component features in commercial deployment and are adding more in" the third and fourth quarters of 2013. Schlageter added that Sprint has already "commercially deployed today four-branch MIMO and SON features.

For more:
- see this VentureBeat article

Related Articles:
T-Mobile's LTE network shows 25 Mbps downloads in early tests
The roadmap to LTE Advanced
Verizon's Palmer details the company's AWS deployment strategy, VoLTE launch plans and more
Analyst: AT&T to launch LTE Advanced in second half of 2013\

Article updated April 25 with comment from Sprint.