T-Mobile has rapidly expanded its LTE footprint in the last year, but there is only so much the carrier can do with existing spectrum licenses. It was previously rumored the Un-carrier was working on a spectrum deal with Verizon, and now its official. T-Mobile will hand over AWS licenses worth $950 million and throw in another $2.365 billion in cash to get its hands on new Block A 700MHz licenses.


T-Mobile's LTE network is currently operating on AWS band 4 (1700/2100MHz) as it transitions HSPA+ to the 1900MHz spectrum it received as a result of the failed AT&T takeover. The block A spectrum being purchased by T-Mobile is in the lower band of the 700MHz range (band 12), which makes it very desirable. This is separate from the band 13 spectrum that Verizon has built most of its LTE network on, so there isn't much device support currently.

The spectrum covers 9 of the top 10 and 21 of the top 30 markets across the US. T-Mobile will need to release new phones and tablets that can connect to band 13 LTE in addition to the existing band 4 to take advantage of the acquisition. The deal is subject to approval by regulators, but no serious issues are expected.


Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • runderekrun

    In layman's terms? Better T-Mobile coverage outside of metro areas? I would switch in an instant.

    • Jackme

      Sounds like more urban coverage.

    • yankeesusa

      Sad to say tmobil said that this is to bolster their current coverage in metro areas if I'm not mistaken. But I think their announcement for uncarrier 4 will have something to do with expanding coverage to smaller towns. At least I hope.

  • wicketr

    Wish there was more information on what those markets were. I've seen it reported like this elsewhere, but can't find a full list. T-Mobile needed this!

  • Jeff

    this is a huge move for T-mobile. Building penetrating 700 frequency plus wifi calling will make T-mobile one of the best indoor networks out there and finally a true competitor to Verizon and AT&T in urban areas. I sure hope they can aquire more of the spectrum in other markets and eventually rural areas.

  • ProductFRED

    What you need to know:

    - Higher frequency = Worse coverage

    - Companies bid on licenses to use certain frequencies in certain regions of the country

    - AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint usually win these licenses

    - AT&T LTE is 700 MHz (B-Block). Verizon LTE is really 750 MHz (but referred to as 700 MHz C-Block), and Sprint uses 800, 1900, and 2600 MHz. That's why their LTE penetrates buildings and reaches further.

    - T-Mobile uses 1900 MHz for EDGE and HSPA+ (as well as 1700/2100 MHz). And they use 1700/2100 (together, known as AWS) for LTE. That's why their signal sucks outside of cities and doesn't penetrate buildings. This was probably their biggest issue.

    - They gave Verizon some AWS licenses because Verizon is adding AWS LTE to their 750 MHz LTE; this should help with congestion in populated areas, like here in NYC.

    - Verizon is giving them unused 700 MHz A-Block that they were just holding onto; none of their devices even support it. They were just holding it for the sake of keeping it from the other carriers. This means that T-Mobile LTE will penetrate buildings better and reach (from what I've heard) about 3 times further than it currently does.

    - Unfortunately, from what I've heard, the 700 MHz in T-Mobile and AT&T devices (B-Block) doesn't work with this newly acquired spectrum. The good news is that it's not being rolled out until like Q4 2014, which means by the time the major new devices are out, we T-Mobile customers should be seeing MUCH better signal.

    • h4rr4r

      Higher frequency does not mean worse coverage. It just does not penetrate as well or go as far for a given power level. In a congested wireless environment that is a good thing. Higher frequency also means a higher speed connection, all other things being even.

      • motoridersd

        Higher frequency does not mean a higher speed with all other things being equal. Spectrum is spectrum. In an interference free environment, with the same modulation and same amount of bandwidth, speeds will be the same no matter the frequency. Usually higher frequencies come in bigger blocks, so that's why higher frequency licenses tend to allow for higher speeds.

        • h4rr4r

          Hartley disagrees.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          Incorrect. If all other variables are held equal, higher band spectrum will allow better performance from a cell every single time. This is due to the higher frequencies modulation; a 1900mhz signal will contact (and therefore transmit data at the following rate) the subscriber (or visa versa, cell handset to the base station) Assuming each channel is capable of transmitting 1 bit/hz (perfect signal, no subscribers overloading the network, 1 hz channel width) that would result in a transmit rate of (1bit/hz * 1900mhz = 1900megabits/per/second, aka 1900 Mbps. Keep in mind this is all theoretical, but as you increase or decrease frequency of a transmission, you are (as a side effect, maybe) increasing or decreasing the cell's bitrate

      • ProductFRED

        In general, it means worse coverage in terms of how far the signal can go. In a city it isn't an issue. Across rural areas though, it's a big issue.

        • h4rr4r

          In a city overcrowding is a huge issue in wireless and as such the signal not propagating as far is a good thing.

          • Matthew Fry

            I suppose that depends on whether it satisfactorily goes where you need it to go. If it doesn't, then you will go to the carrier that does and that carrier will likely be using a lower frequency.

          • h4rr4r

            I am not speaking only of cellular. One big way to improve wifi in a crowded area is more lower powered access points and directional antennas. It seems counter intuitive, but by lowering you own transmit power you prevent nearby transmitters from increasing their own transmit power and prevent a lot of issues.

  • Simon Belmont

    Hmm. Shame the Nexus 5 doesn't support LTE Band 12, but by the time it's fully implemented, we'll probably have new phones, perhaps?

    Good to see T-Mobile getting some lower frequency coverage in their repertoire. I'm all for it.

    • remister

      We can only hope. Hopefully it won't be a Nexus 4 bombshell, as LTE was out, but didn't have the radios for it. I hope the next Nexus releases with this radios already implemented.

      • Simon Belmont

        Yeah. I've been really pleased with the T-Mobile LTE on my Nexus 5.

        It's really fast and I've not had issues with building penetration so far. Lets hope the next Nexus will have even more bands (especially Band 12).

  • cmbeid

    Too band the Nexus 5 does not support the new bands...

    • Mike Reid

      Too band ;)

    • Andrew

      By the time these bands are live, we'll have Nexus 5 (2014).

  • jman69

    All made possible thanks to the 3 billion dollar fee AT&T had to pay from the failed merger lol.

  • Alex

    Wish they would think of the lower cities when expanding LTE, I live in Kingsport, TN which is apart of a decently large 3-city area called the "Tri-Cities", but for now I guess I'm stuck on 4G

    • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

      You mean stuck on 3G?

  • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

    "T-Mobile will need to release new phones and tablets that can connect to band 13 LTE in addition to the existing band 4 to take advantage of the acquisition."

    Wouldn't it be band 12? I thought you said Verizon was using band 13 for their LTE.

  • Daren Ferreira

    This is crap.. It just means they spent a ton of money that could have been used to improve T-Mobile infrastructure and erect new towers. Now all we get is some new LTE bandwidth that most of our phones don't even support.
    I'm so glad I paid $600 for a G2 only to have the Nexus 5 come out a month later and now to have it already obsoleted on the T-Mobile network.. Maybe I can work a quick trade for someone's Xperia Z1.. :D