T-Mobile to begin lighting up AWS-3 spectrum with launch of the LG V20

Image: LG

T-Mobile said it will begin to bring its LTE AWS-3 spectrum online with the launch of the LG V20, becoming the first U.S. operator to leverage those airwaves.

The operator announced the pre-sale of the V20, which will be available Oct. 28 for $770 or $50 down and $30 a month over 24 months on its equipment installment plan (EIP). T-Mobile is pushing the new phone with a $200 credit for users who trade in any working 4G smartphone and is also dangling a free pair of B&O Play’s H3 headphones, which retail for $150.

While LG has struggled in an ultra-competitive worldwide smartphone market, the V20 has a clear opportunity to gain traction among Android fans during the holiday shopping season. Samsung continues to deal with the disastrous launch – and relaunch – of the Galaxy Note 7, and Google’s high-profile Pixel will initially be available in the U.S. only through Verizon, limiting its appeal. All four major U.S. operators have said they’ll carry the V20, and there appears to be a void at the high end of the Android market at a crucial time of year.

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Perhaps more important, though, is the news that T-Mobile has moved so quickly to leverage its AWS-3 licenses. T-Mobile was one of the main participants in the FCC’s hugely successful auction of AWS-3 spectrum last year. The auction of 65 MHz of spectrum ended in January 2015 with a total of $44.899 billion in provisional winning bids; T-Mobile walked away with roughly $1.774 billion in winning bids, and the FCC issued those spectrum licenses to T-Mobile in April 2015.

Carriers typically require years to fully deploy new spectrum. After purchasing the rights to deploy the spectrum, they must then add antennas to their cell towers capable of sending and receiving data over that spectrum. And perhaps more critically, they must also begin selling devices capable of working on that new spectrum band.

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AT&T, the big spender during the AWS-3 auction with more than $18 billion in winning bids, said last year it expects to begin deploying the spectrum “beginning in the 2017-2018 period.”

T-Mobile was tight-lipped about where AWS-3 spectrum is being put to use and how many customers can access the spectrum, but said it plans to sell other AWS-3-enabled phones in the future.