T-Mobile, for all its cheeky promotions and positive speed tests, still has a coverage problem. Compared to AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile’s network mostly runs on higher-band spectrum that’s bad at penertrating buildings or giving coverage over rural areas.
To address the issue, T-Mobile spent $8 billion on new low-band spectrum earlier this year. The new 600MHz frequnecy that it bought is being freed up by moving analog TV stations onto different channels, a process that the FCC suggested would take about four years. But for T-Mobile, that’s three years too long.
In a new filing with the FCC spotted by Fierce Wireless, T-Mobile outlined its plan to accelerate the rollout of 600MHz. The top-level figure is extraordinary: by the end of the year, T-Mobile’s planning to have over one million sqaure miles covered with 600MHz by the end of the year.
The image above shows what that will mean for T-Mobile’s customers, particularly those in rural areas. 600MHz is well suited for rural deployments, as the low-band spectrum will travel further, and better through different obstacles. The tradeoff is a lower theoretical max speed, but given a choice between 30Mbps LTE signal at your house, or 100Mbps in the town three miles away, you can guess what most people pick.
In its filing with the FCC, T-Mobile details how it’s helping TV channels with the transition phase. In some cases, T-Mobile is working directly with local TV stations to help with the costs of transitioning. In particular, it’s partnered with the nationwide network of PBS stations to help the transition, and T-Mobile itself is paying for the new low-power broadcast facilities that local TV will need.
One detail from the filing that T-Mobile stressed is that its 600MHz deployment will bring “wireless broadband” to rural areas. T-Mobile’s primary focus has always been cellphones and smartphone data plans, but the filing hints that with the deployment of new spectrum and 5G testing, T-Mobile might start looking at home wireless broadband in greater detail. For the majority of Americans that have no choice in home broadband providers, that’s a space worth watching.