T-Mobile launches HSPA+ on 1900 MHz spectrum in Las Vegas

T-Mobile USA has launched HSPA+ service on its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum in Las Vegas, the first full market where it has refarmed its HSPA+ spectrum. The spectrum refarming is a key component of T-Mobile's $4 billion network modernization.

Speaking at GigaOM's Mobilize conference Friday, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray announced the market and discussed the carrier's network plans. Ray said the carrier is excited to offer a  cohesive HSPA+ footprint in a major city. "We really want it to be a showcase," he said.

T-Mobile plans to use its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum for LTE while it refarms its 1900 MHz spectrum for HSPA+ service. The carrier plans to launch LTE next year. T-Mobile is starting to turn up its HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in other cities such as Seattle, Washington, D.C., and the New York City metro area. Ray has said that the company will have a "material" footprint of refarmed 1900 MHz spectrum by year-end. The refarming will allow 1900 MHz devices, including unlocked Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone devices, to access faster speeds on T-Mobile's network.

On LTE, Ray said T-Mobile will be able to deploy 10 x 10 MHz channels across 90 percent of the top 25 U.S. markets when it launches LTE next year. The carrier will have a nationwide LTE footprint by the end of 2013, he said, but he did not specify a targeted number of covered POPs. Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks are working with T-Mobile to deploy LTE Release-10 equipment--dubbed LTE Advanced--for the rollout. Ray said the advanced LTE standard will deliver faster speeds and greater spectral efficiency. "It will be one of the fastest LTE offerings that will be in the marketplace," he said.

T-Mobile has cobbled together extra AWS spectrum as part of the breakup fee from AT&T's (NYSE:T) failed acquisition of T-Mobile as well as a spectrum swap Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ).

T-Mobile recently reintroduced an unlimited smartphone plan and the company is actively trying to lure unlocked iPhone customers to its network. "It's really about getting out there and offering real choice and real freedom to use your smartphone as it was designed," Ray said of the carrier's unlimited pricing plan. AT&T gave T-Mobile AWS spectrum in 128 market areas, including in 12 of the top 20 markets in the United States: Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. T-Mobile said the AT&T spectrum will increase its average spectrum holdings in the top 100 markets from approximately 54 MHz to approximately 60 MHz. Additionally,  T-Mobile said the spectrum from Verizon will  improve its spectrum position in 15 of the top 25 markets and allow it to cover 60 million more POPs with LTE.

Currently, T-Mobile offers an HSPA+42 network covering 184 million POPs in 185 markets, and its HSPA+21 network covers around 220 million POPs. The carrier advertises its network as America's largest network that provides "4G" speeds. Indeed, independent tests have shown that T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 network offers download speeds of around 8 Mbps, similar to what Verizon provides via its LTE network.

Ray said customers using Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S III smartphone, which is compatible with HSPA+42, are using an average of 1.6 GB per month. In mid-June the carrier said subscribers with smartphones capable of accessing its HSPA+ 42 Mbps network consumed an average of 1.3 GB per month.

For more:
- see this GigaOM article

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