T-Mobile: More LTE Cities, MetroPCS HSPA Phones Coming Soon
T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS today, and T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray has a to-do list.
Customers of the two companies won’t see any immediate change in their user experience, Ray said, but things are going to start getting better fast for MetroPCS users.
“We will very shortly open up our LTE network for MetroPCS roamers who today would be roaming on CDMA services,” Ray said.
That means folks with existing MetroPCS LTE phones who go to places like Houston, Kansas City, and Phoenix will hit T-Mobile’s speedy LTE network rather than plugging along on Sprint’s slower CDMA network as they would have previously. And as T-Mobile expands its LTE network, MetroPCS customers will get access to those cities, too.
For now, MetroPCS customers roaming outside MetroPCS cities will still make voice calls over Sprint’s network, but T-Mobile is working on a “VoLTE path,” which would route MetroPCS calls over T-Mobile LTE, Ray said.
MetroPCS will start selling phones compatible with T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network within the next “two to three months,” Ray said. Metro’s lineup will have some devices in common with T-Mobile’s lineup, but the array of phones at MetroPCS will remain “a little different” from what you see at T-Mobile, he said.
T-Mobile’s previous plans show them keeping some support for existing MetroPCS CDMA phones until 2015, at which point the company would like everyone to be using HSPA+ and LTE devices.
Much More LTE Coming Soon
T-Mobile has promised to cover 100 million Americans with LTE by the end of June, although it’s only hit seven cities so far and not announced any others. Ray says “major markets will be coming online over the next eight weeks” and “I have 100 percent confidence we’ll exceeed the 100 million.” The next batch of cities will come from the list of places where T-Mobile has functioning 1900Mhz HSPA+, as the 1900 upgrade and the LTE upgrade were actually done at the same time.
That could put places like Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, New York, and Seattle next up, although Ray wasn’t giving specific names.
T-Mobile is currently far behind its three major rivals in installing LTE. While the company’s 4G HSPA+ 42 system offers download speeds similar to LTE networks, upload speeds fall short, and LTE offers a path to even greater speed and capacity in the future.
Once MetroPCS users have access to the T-Mobile LTE network, the company can fold the two LTE networks together to further speed up LTE in cities where MetroPCS runs, Ray said. Mostly, that means shifting gears from “5×5″ LTE up to “10×10″ LTE, where Ray says he’s seen peak download speeds of 60-70Mbps. In our experience, Verizon’s and AT&T’s 10×10 LTE networks tend to deliver more like 10-20Mbps, but that’s still quite good. And with spectrum from deals with AT&T, Verizon, and now MetroPCS, T-Mobile has a clear path forward, Ray said.
“Starting in 2014, we’ll even be able to go to 20×20 in some of those markets. If you think about what that will bring in ’14 and beyond, we’re going to be bringing a very fast, capable network to market,” he said.
One unexpected place you can get T-Mobile 4G LTE, meanwhile, is in certain New York City subway stations.
By Sascha Segan, PCMag