T-Mobile takes on Verizon in LTE advertising and network battle

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is taking on Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in terms of advertising and an LTE network expansion, arguing that Verizon's ads on network coverage are misleading. The carrier is making that claim in connection with a major LTE network coverage push of its own.

T-Mobile is targeting Verizon specifically in new ads. In its ads, T-Mobile trumpets that it covers 96 percent of all Americans with voice and data, and says "Fold up your old map, Verizon."

Verizon has had a long-running advertising campaign that compares the Tier 1 carriers' LTE networks. Verizon's is the largest right now. However, T-Mobile aims to challenge that. "I want to decimate that ad campaign from Verizon," T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told CNET in an interview Thursday. Ray said that Verizon gives itself an advantage by only talking about LTE coverage.

"It's deceptive," he said. "That's the piece we're challenging." 

Ray also said T-Mobile's LTE network is the nation's fastest (T-Mobile bases that claim on crowd-sourced speed tests).

T-Mobile said Thursday it has "taken legal action demanding that Verizon cease and desist the carrier's network map advertising," arguing that Verizon "has cherry-picked a single network technology to depict in its ads rather than accurately reflecting the many technologies widely in use today."

To be fair, the Verizon campaign clearly only talks about LTE networks and not other technologies. "We prefer to compete in the marketplace, not in the courts," Verizon said in a statement. "Our customers know what a true nationwide 4G LTE network experience feels like, map or not."

Indeed, T-Mobile is aiming to catch up to industry leaders in terms of LTE coverage as well as in new subscriber numbers. In the fourth quarter, T-Mobile added 1.6 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter, just shy of the 1.9 million added by Verizon. T-Mobile previously has targeted AT&T Mobility in T-Mobile advertising.

As for its network, T-Mobile said it will expand its LTE network to encompass its entire 2G EDGE network by the middle of 2015. In a Twitter post, T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert said that the company "announced a major plan today to upgrade ALL of our remaining 2G Edge to LTE! HALF of it this year!"

T-Mobile's LTE network currently covers 210 million POPs, and the company has previously said it plans to increase that to 230 million by mid-year and 250 million by the end of 2014.

A T-Mobile spokesman confirmed to FierceWireless that T-Mobile's native 2G EDGE network currently covers 284 million POPs. It currently covers an additional 17 million people through roaming agreements with other EDGE carriers. By combining those numbers, T-Mobile covers roughly 301 million POPs, or around 96 percent of the U.S. population, with EDGE.

So, presumably, when T-Mobile's EDGE network upgrade is completed in mid-2015, T-Mobile will cover roughly 284 million people with LTE. However, a T-Mobile spokesperson declined to specify T-Mobile's 2015 LTE coverage target. 

It's also reasonable to assume that T-Mobile's roaming partners will also upgrade to LTE at some point; carriers typically do not disclose who their roaming partners are.

Verizon's LTE network currently covers 305 million POPs. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) currently covers 280 million POPs with LTE and aims to hit 300 million by mid-year. Sprint (NYSE:S) covers 200 million POPs with LTE and aims to cover 250 million by mid-year, but has not given an LTE coverage target beyond that.

For more:
- see this ExtremeTech article
- see this GigaOM article
- see this CNET article

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