T-Mobile passes Sprint with 230M LTE POPs, while Verizon dominates with 306M LTE POPs

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) confirmed it met its mid-year goal of covering 230 million POPs with its LTE network. The carrier plans to cover 250 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2014.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere confirmed the milestone in a post on Twitter, referencing CTO Neville Ray, who said in a June 18 blog post that T-Mobile would hit the goal. Characteristically, he also took a swipe at a rival, Sprint (NYSE: S) this time. "Neville confirmed we hit 230M POPs of LTE! Met our goal but still going! Where you at @Sprint? I hear you're running behind. #sprintlikehell."

Other carriers are also making progress on their LTE goals, though. AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) spokesman Mark Siegel said that the company's LTE network now covers nearly 290 million POPs in more than 500 markets across the country.

"As we've said in the past, we expect the deployment to be substantially complete this summer," he said. "As you know, we're delivering 4G LTE over 700 MHz spectrum in our markets, and in the future, we will deliver it over the 1700/2100 MHz AWS spectrum as well." AT&T expects to hit 300 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2014.

AT&T has also started to refarm its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum for LTE in multiple markets, including, Baltimore, Dallas, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Further, AT&T also has plans to begin deploying LTE on its 2.3 GHZ WCS spectrum sometime in 2015.

Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton said the carrier has no updated figures on its LTE deployment progress but had not changed its guidance from June 23, when it said its LTE footprint covers 471 markets and 225 million POPs. The company said it expects to reach 250 million POPs with LTE by mid-year. That network is using Sprint's 1900 MHz spectrum. Some markets, such as Denver, are still waiting for that first wave of Sprint's LTE deployment.

Sprint is also deploying LTE on its 800 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum and expects to cover 100 million POPs with all three bands as part of its Spark service by the end of the year. Sprint has said Spark service is designed to deliver average wireless speeds of 6-15 Mbps and peak wireless speeds of 50-60 Mbps. The company plans to use carrier aggregation technology on its 2.5 GHz spectrum to boost peak data speeds over time to 120 Mbps by the end of 2014 and 180 Mbps by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless' (NYSE: VZ) 700 MHz LTE network covers around 306 million POPs. The carrier has also been busy deploying its LTE service on its AWS spectrum to bolster its network capacity. The carrier has dubbed the combination of LTE on 700 MHz and AWS spectrum as "XLTE."

Verizon recently announced that more than 300 markets now have XLTE service (up from around 250 in mid-May). Verizon's 700 MHz LTE network is available in more than 500 markets in the U.S.

Although T-Mobile was the last Tier 1 carrier to deploy LTE, it has been charging hard to expand coverage. Further, T-Mobile's Ray noted in June that T-Mobile is now offering what it calls "Wideband LTE," with 15x15 MHz service, in 16 U.S. markets. The Wideband LTE moniker is the operator's marketing term for spectrum deployments of at least 15x15 MHz.

At the time of its first-quarter 2014 earnings announcement, T-Mobile said it had deployed 15x15 MHz LTE in nine metro areas and would have 19 covered by year-end. It had also deployed 20x20 MHz LTE in North Dallas and Detroit and pledged to have seven such deployments by the end of 2014.

For more:
- see this Twitter post
- see this T-Mobile blog post
- see this 9to5Mac article
- see this Denver Post article

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Correction, July 1, 2014: This article incorrectly described what T-Mobile's Wideband LTE describes. It is the operator's marketing term for spectrum deployments of at least 15x15 MHz.