T-Mobile’s Ray: We’ll match Verizon’s LTE coverage this year

T-Mobile offers an LTE coverage map on its website.

T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray said the carrier will “close the gap” with Verizon’s LTE network coverage by the end of this year. Specifically, he said that T-Mobile expects to cover the same number of people that Verizon does with LTE by the end of 2016.

"We plan to materially close the gap [with Verizon] by the end of the year," Ray told Cnet yesterday following the release of a report that found T-Mobile’s network speeds outpaced those of Verizon.

Not surprisingly, Verizon stood its ground in its own comments to Cnet: “Talk is cheap, and it won't make the nearly 1 million-square-mile gap in LTE coverage -- or the stark advantage in reliability and consistent speeds that VZ's network has over T-Mobile -- disappear," a spokesman told the publication.

Cnet noted that T-Mobile currently covers 311 million people with LTE, which is just a few million away from what Verizon claims.

Indeed, T-Mobile and Ray have made significant strides in expanding the operator’s LTE coverage and performance. Although T-Mobile was relatively late to the LTE network game – Verizon launched the nation’s first LTE network in 2010, while T-Mobile didn’t launch LTE until 2013 – T-Mobile has made major improvements to its coverage area and network performance.

Just yesterday an OpenSignal report found T-Mobile operated the nation’s fastest LTE network in the country, edging out Verizon with an average LTE speed of 16.3 Mbps. Verizon topped its rivals in LTE availability, though, with users able to access a 4G connection 86 percent of the time.

(To be clear though, a report from Ookla yesterday found that Verizon delivered the fastest download speeds in Ookla’s survey with an average of 21.11 Mbps, barely beating T-Mobile’s 21.02 Mbps.)

T-Mobile’s initial LTE network buildout was based on its AWS-1 spectrum. However, in recent years T-Mobile has invested billions of dollars purchasing 700 MHz spectrum – such low-band spectrum covers a wider geographic footprint due to its propagation characteristics. Verizon’s initial LTE buildout was based on that operator’s 700 MHz spectrum holdings, though it has since expanded into other spectrum bands including AWS-1.

Interestingly, T-Mobile’s 700 MHz shopping spree started in 2014 when the carrier purchased $2.365 billion worth of lower 700 MHz A Block spectrum from Verizon. And it continued earlier this year when T-Mobile spent more than $1 billion purchasing 700 MHz A Block spectrum licenses from the likes of Cellular South, Cavalier, C700 and others to cover major areas of Utah, New Mexico, parts of the Southeast and elsewhere. 

And T-Mobile’s low-band shopping efforts will likely continue this year through the FCC’s ongoing incentive auction of TV broadcasters’ unwanted 600 MHz licenses. T-Mobile has said it could spend up to $10 billion in that auction in efforts to flesh out its low-band coverage across the United States.

For more:
- see this Cnet article

Related articles:
Verizon, T-Mobile neck-and-neck in LTE speeds, two surveys show, while Sprint lags behind
T-Mobile's 700 MHz buildout in 2016 revealed: Over $1B spent in Utah, Southeast and elsewhere
T-Mobile jabs at Verizon in new ad that highlights its 700 MHz LTE coverage expansion
T-Mobile buys Verizon's 700 MHz A Block spectrum for $2.4B