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T-Mobile coaxing 2G users off of 1900 MHz

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

T-Mobile USA will increase its capital expenditures through the rest of the year as it goes all in on its network modernization project while simultaneously dabbling in one-off incentives to get users to dump their 2G devices.

The operator, which lost a net 205,000 subscribers during 2012′s second quarter, said its capex will increase during the second half of 2012 as it upgrades its network, a move that should help the company become more competitive with other operators next year as it delivers improved network speeds and possibly popular devices such as the Apple iPhone.

According to Telecom Lead, T-Mobile reported its cash capex was $539 million during the second quarter, a decrease of 27.8 percent from the first quarter, and a decrease of 21.7 percent from the year-ago quarter. It credited payment timing as a contributing factor to the lower cash capex, which will soon begin to ramp up.

T-Mobile has pledged to spend around $4 billion to roll out LTE over its 1700/2100 MHz AWS spectrum and shift HSPA+ services from the AWS frequencies to its 1900 MHz spectrum, which is currently used for 2G GSM service. It has selected Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks as vendors for the modernization project.

The operator faces a tricky mission in its effort to refarm 1900 MHz spectrum, which still serves domestic GSM customers, M2M users as well as international GSM roamers. Last month, TmoNews reported the operator had initiated a “3G Device Upgrade Pilot” in five cities: Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Miami.

The three-week-long marketing pilot, which reportedly ended July 30, offered a host of different incentives to encourage customers to give up their GSM 1900 MHz devices and upgrade to 3G or 4G devices. Only 5,000 customers in each market were sent a mailer notifying them of the incentives. Qualifying customers were on Classic or Legacy rate plans and used 1,000 or more minutes per month on a 2G-only device.

The pilot test was likely being used as a precursor to larger regional incentive offers as T-Mobile works to shift GSM users away from its 1900 MHz spectrum in order to make room for HSPA+ service.

One major benefit of bringing HSPA+ to 1900 MHz is that legacy iPhones on T-Mobile’s networks will be able to receive high-speed data services. It has been estimated that close to 1 million unlocked iPhones are operating on T-Mobile’s 1900 MHz network, even though the operator does not sell them and the devices are currently only able to receive 2G service from T-Mobile in that spectrum.

T-Mobile will be skipped over by the impending release of the iPhone 5, predicts. Eric Costa, a research analyst in Technology Business Research’s Networking and Mobility Practice. But at least the refarming effort will position T-Mobile for future iPhone sales.

“The 1900 MHz refarm will allow for future iPhone access should a deal be signed. This would boost data consumption as iPhone users consume the highest amount of data on average. Unlike the other Tier 1 operators, T-Mobile will use the iPhone as a defensive strategy to help retain subscribers already on its network, as other subscribers on other networks already have access to the iPhone without needing to switch carriers,” said Costa.

Rival operator AT&T Mobility is also busily refarming its 2G spectrum and has already announced the planned shuttering of its GSM service by early 2017 as it refarms its 850 MHz and 1900 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile has maintained that it will continue to offer 2G services to existing customers, many of which are M2M users.

Regarding AT&T’s plans, Stefan Zehle of Coleago Consulting wrote in a recent Telecom Asia column that legacy customers are an issue for operators engaged in refarming as “customers who make the least usage and have the lowest bills hang on to their old phones the longest.”

Zehle noted that in AT&T’s case, it might seem sensible to leave a few slivers of spectrum available for GSM use since any spectrum that is less than 5-MHz wide cannot be refarmed for HSPA and LTE. However, he said such thinking is a misconception because “operating the legacy 2G network outweighs the revenue made from these customers.”

For more:
- see this Telecom Lead article
- see this TmoNews blog article
- see this Technology Business Research post
- see this Telecom Asia article


T-Mobile drops ‘America’s Largest 4G Network’ claim

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

T-Mobile USA has discontinued its “America’s Largest 4G Network” tagline after using it for the past 18 months.

“With the breadth of T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G network well established, we recently moved to a network claim that reflects the network’s performance and reliability, particularly with the $4 billion investment we’re making and recent accolades like the PC Magazine Fastest Mobile Networks Test, which showed T-Mobile’s 4G network to be very competitive with current LTE networks,” wrote T-Mobile spokesperson Danielle Hopcus in response to questions from Fierce Wireless. “T-Mobile became the first nationwide 4G network and began using ‘America’s Largest 4G Network’ in marketing more than 18 months ago. Since that time, competitors have worked to catch up as we’ve continued to expand and strengthen our 4G network. We don’t care to believe these last few POPs, and the numbers are constantly changing.”

FierceWireless reported in April that T-Mobile’s claim of owning the nation’s largest 4G network was becoming increasingly dubious based on its rivals’ network rollouts. For example, T-Mobile’s claim was based on coverage of 215 million people with HSPA+ network technology–but AT&T Mobility  recently announced it covered 250 million people with its “4G” network (which spans HSPA+ and LTE technologies).

Hopcus said T-Mobile ended its “America’s Largest 4G Network” claim on July 10, when it launched a new advertising effort highlighting the number of towers T-Mobile operates across the country (35,000). AT&T still claims that its network is “the nation’s largest 4G network.” Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless on its website claims it offers “America’s fastest 4G network” and that it provides “more 4G LTE coverage than all other networks combined.”

Read moreT-Mobile drops ‘America’s Largest 4G Network’ claim – FierceWireless http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/t-mobile-drops-americas-largest-4g-network-claim/2012-07-18#ixzz216rCyYz8


GSA: U.S. 700 MHz spectrum leads with 193 LTE devices

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association 193 LTE devices serve the 700 MHz U.S. digital dividend spectrum, with another 78 LTE devices designed for Band 4 of AWS 1.7/2.1 GHz spectrum.

The 700 MHz devices are available for various bands, the GSA said. Market leader Verizon Wireless holds 700 MHz spectrum mainly in Band Class 13, while AT&T uses 700 MHz spectrum in Band Class 17. “The majority of LTE user devices operate in the 700 MHz band since LTE networks using this spectrum are the most extensively developed today, driven by market developments in the USA,” said the GSA.

There are currently 90 devices available for Europe’s 800 MHz digital dividend spectrum, all designed for Band 20. In addition, there are also 98 LTE devices designed for the 1800 MHz Band 3, 120 devices for the 2600 MHz Band 7 and 75 devices for 800/1800/2600 MHz, according to the GSA.

The group noted that European operators are primarily using 2600 MHz, 1800 MHz and 800 MHz digital dividend spectrum for LTE–in many cases using all three bands–and manufacturers have rapidly responded with products for these markets. For example, the number of user devices capable of operating in the 2600 MHz Band 7 increased by 85 percent since January 2012, said the GSA.

The group’s latest report on the status of the LTE ecosystem also revealed that 67 manufacturers have announced 417 LTE-enabled user devices, 68 of which can operate in TD-LTE mode. The breakdown of LTE user devices by form factor includes:

  • 45 modules
  • 31 tablets
  • 19 notebooks
  • 1 PC card
  • 3 femtocells
  • 83 smartphones
  • 157 routers
  • 78 dongles

“The number of LTE user devices announced in the market has more than tripled over the past year,” said Alan Hadden, GSA president.

The GSA said 267 LTE devices also operate on HSPA, HSPA+ or DC-HSPA+ networks. Within this figure, 109 LTE devices can operate on 42 Mbps HSPA+ systems. Further, 126 LTE devices support operation on cdma2000 EV-DO networks.

A total of 327 operators in 99 countries are currently investing in LTE, and 144 LTE networks are expected to be in commercial service in 59 countries by the end of this year, the group said.


Source: http://www.fiercebroadbandwireless.com/story/gsa-us-700-mhz-spectrum-leads-193-lte-devices/2012-07-04


Top wireless stories of the week ending in 6/22/2012

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Verizon to ‘promptly’ use AWS for LTE: Verizon Wireless will move quickly to use the AWS spectrum it is paying $3.9 billion to acquire from four cable operators, two of its executives told officials from the FCC’s wireless bureau this week.

AT&T Mobility’s spectrum focus turns to 2.3 GHz band; challenges remain: AT&T Mobility’s desire to secure spectrum resources has turned to the 2.3 GHz band, which is currently dominated by satellite radio operator Sirius XM.

FCC may open cell phone radiation inquiry: The FCC is considering opening an investigation into cell phone radiation standards, a controversial issue that has yet to find consensus within the scientific community.

4.9 GHz band could open up for limited commercial use: The FCC is scrutinizing the 4.9 GHz band and is seeking input on efforts to promote greater use of the band, including opening it up for commercial applications and finding ways to complement the nationwide interoperable LTE public-safety safety broadband network currently in development.

Nextel Mexico gears up for Q3 launch of HSPA+: Nll Holdings, which delivers mobile services in Latin America under the Nextel brand, expects to launch its WCDMA/HSPA+ network in Mexico during this year’s third quarter.


WCDMA voice gets another look as HSPA+ takes off

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Circuit-switched voice is starting to seem so passé, but it’s going to be around for quite awhile. That’s why companies such as InToTally and Qualcomm are developing methods to make WCDMA voice more efficient so operators can wring out additional spectrum capacity to make room HSPA and HSPA+ data services.

Though they are taking different approaches, both companies are looking to limit the amount of power used by voice communications over WCDMA so there is more spectrum available for HSPA and HSPA+. “There is a huge amount of data coming and the voice is occupying most of the spectrum,” said InToTally’s CEO Alvaro Lopez-Medrano.

The mobile communications industry is migrating toward VoLTE and VoHSPA, “but it will take some time before those services have the quality and ubiquity of circuit-switched voice,” said Rasmus Hellberg, Qualcomm’s senior director of technical marketing.

“4G is frequently promoted as the way to meet the huge demand for mobile capacity. But by 2016 only about 26 percent of subscribers will have moved to 4G networks and a hybrid solution with 3G will be essential to ensure adequate coverage for voice and data,” said Sue Rudd, director of service provider analysis at Strategy Analytics.

While InToTally and Qualcomm agree on the need to improve WCDMA voice efficiency, they are tackling the issue from different angles. Further, while InToTally’s proprietary approach is already available for licensing, Qualcomm is working to get its approach included in the planned Release 12 of specifications for 3GPP technologies.

Going after the outer loop

InToTally’s solution is based upon solving outer loop power control issues found in CDMA and WCDMA. According to Lopez-Medrano, the OLPC sets the appropriate signal to interference ratio (SIR) target to maintain a given quality criterion, but traditional OLPS approaches based upon the Block Error Rate (BLER) are too slow to accommodate real-time power adaptation to different radio conditions, thus leading to voice communications inefficiencies.

For example, in a standard WCDMA voice call, the initial end-user device’s power is set high at the beginning because the handset and base station are not yet aware of the radio conditions impacting the device. That high setting can causes unnecessary interference with other users, said Lopez-Medrano, and it takes a long time for the power loop to measure the call quality and instruct the device to power down. “We have developed a new technique that looks at a different metric that gathers and processes information much more quickly,” Lopez-Medrano said.

InToTally’s ToT-OLPC technology is aimed a providing faster convergence speed for the radio link between network antennas and mobile handsets, thus improving overall voice efficiency and capacity,” said Lopez-Medrano. Field tests have shown a 20 percent capacity gain on average and 40 percent gain in highly saturated areas, said Lopez-Medrano, adding, “The room for improvement in the outer loop is huge.”


Source: http://www.fiercebroadbandwireless.com/story/wcdma-voice-gets-another-look-hspa-takes/2012-06-13

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