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T-Mobile shows Sprint how a proper LTE rollout is done

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Yesterday T-Mobile made a few awesome announcements, including unveiling a new program that allows customers to upgrade their phones twice a year at new customer pricing. But what I found even more amazing was T-Mobile’s LTE announcement, which completely blew most people’s expectations out of the water. And while Sprint has always been major focus here at Pocketables, T-Mobile’s LTE announcement should be of great interest to current Sprint subscribers, if only for the reason that T-Mobile really put Sprint in its place and showed it how a proper LTE rollout is done.

Let me explain.

Sprint has been working on a nationwide 4G rollout for almost five years. It started back in October 2008, when WiMAX was originally launched in Baltimore. The original HTC EVO 4G was the first phone to take advantage of the network in 2010; however, as we all know, the 4G WiMAX expansion ground to a halt, and an agonizingly long period of waiting began, during which time no one knew what was going to happen. For what seemed an eternity, there were no new WiMAX announcements, and only rumors of LTE.

Finally, in July 2011, Sprint announced that it would build an LTE network, and LTE deployments began in Chicago later in October 2011. Fast forward two years to today and Sprint LTE is available in about 110 markets. Let’s compare that to what T-Mobile has done.

T-Mobile was obviously late to the LTE game, only announcing its intent to upgrade to LTE in February 2012. One year later, in March 2013, T-Mobile announced that its LTE network was available in seven markets: Baltimore, San Jose, Washington D.C, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Houston. Fast forward four months to today, and T-Mobile LTE is now available in 116 metropolitan areas, covering 157 million people – that’s 57 million more people than its original goal.

Compared to Sprint, T-Mobile LTE is currently in 73 of the top 100 metro areas across the country, while Sprint is only in 22; only Verizon is in all 100. In these markets where T-Mobile has officially launched LTE, it claims that it is at 75-80% completion; Sprint, on the other hand, “launches” a market when it is between 30-50% complete.

T-Mobile has already started using spectrum from the MetroPCS merger to double LTE speeds in Las Vegas and bring HSPA+ 42 to Boise, Idaho. T-Mobile says that the old MetroPCS CDMA network will be completely shut down in 2.5 years, while Sprint kept iDEN around for 8 years.

During the press event yesterday, T-Mobile said that it will reach 200 million people covered in LTE in 200 metro markets well before the end of this year. Sprint, in the meantime, has extended its deadline for Network Vision into 2014.

Do I really need to go on? T-Mobile was late to the game with LTE, and not only has the company surpassed Sprint in terms of its rollout, but it’s on pace to blow Sprint out of the water. Granted, T-Mobile isn’t perfect – there are still too many areas that are covered in GPRS and EDGE, but given the pace of HSPA+ upgrades and its LTE buildout, I have confidence that T-Mobile will focus on its remaining 2G areas very soon.

Given what we’ve seen from Sprint the past several years, and how T-Mobile is sprinting towards the finish line, how do you see both carriers? Are you sticking with Sprint, have you jumped to T-Mobile, or are you on one of the big two carriers now? Let us know!

[PC Mag | T-Mobile | Wikipedia: 1, 2, 3]
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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

Avatar of John F

48 thoughts on “T-Mobile shows Sprint how a proper LTE rollout is done

  • It doesn’t really matter. If the experience on Verizon is any indication. Once it’s widely rolled out, the speeds drop to barely faster than 3G (sometimes slower).

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    • In my area (Detroit Metro), Verizon’s 3G is faster than Sprint’s 4G. The way I see it now, if the competitions 3G is going to be faster, than why should I wait for Sprint to get it’s crap together?

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    • Well there are some factors you’re not taking into account, like congestion. T-Mobile has less customers than AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint – yet they are building out an LTE network that will have as much or more capacity than the others. More capacity + fewer customers = consistently fast speeds.

      Reply
  • I moved to T-Mobile in May and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t have LTE in my area yet, but the HSPA “4G” is fast and reliable. After 4 years with Sprint, thru a failed WiMax rollout and more delays that progress in the LTE rollout, I was sick of disappoint.
    I appreciate the T-Mobile coverage on Pocketables. Please keep it up.

    Reply
  • I want to make the switch because having two new phones a year would be amazing and Sprint is full of empty promises. In a year or two I would consider Sprint again but right now its a no go. I just need to find a way to get out of contract. I called and tried yesterday and even pointed out every fact that you made in your article but they still refused. I hope that class action lawsuit happens.

    Reply
  • After years with Sprint I am finally throwing in the towel and T-Mobile has won me over slowly as of late. It’s not a question of IF I’m going T-Mobile it’s when. I’m on contract until 6/2014 and despite the $200 ETF I’m very tempted to just go now. Paying for mediocre service and a 2 year device upgrade cycle are getting old. News like this just makes it easier. I’m in a Sprint new LTE market and still can’t hold a good signal.

    Reply
    • Avatar of stringfellow

      KT: just leave Sprint. I had to pay ETF when I moved to TMo. I did the math and was cost effective for me to move because of the savings from TMo’s plans at the time. With TMo’s new No Contract plans I am pretty sure your savings would be substantial (at least $20 a month)? You would make your 200 back in 10 months, AND enjoy faster data speeds immediately.

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      • This is my thinking exactly……

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  • Avatar of stringfellow

    Left Sprint in Dec 2012 after 13 years, moved to TMo. Couldn’t be have been happier? June 5, 2013 TMo LTE starts in Honolulu, HI…now SUPER HAPPY! I am getting LTE signal at work and home between 25-30mbs! Yes, faster than my home Road Runner(15mbs).

    Reply
  • Avatar of Richard Yarrell

    Nobody was the BIGGEST Htc Evo 4g fan in 2010 and Evo 3d fan in 2011 than I was. I left Sprint in November 2011 thinking Verizon would be better inorder to get the Verizon Galaxy Nexus. That turned out to be a total disaster as people found. I dumped Verizon for Tmobile June 28th 2012 and have been a happy camper ever since. Tmobile has the best plans, unlimited data and the best smartphones period. I will NEVER LEAVE TMOBILE PERIOD.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Simon Belmont

      For once, I’ll agree with you, Richard. T-Mobile has been great so far.

      Fast speeds, fast deployment of upgrades, great price, and being able to bring my own GSM phone to the party is huge for me. My wife loves her HTC One, and I love my unlocked Galaxy Nexus.

      Reply
  • Avatar of Richard Yarrell

    I enjoy the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 and will be purchasing the Galaxy Note 3 in October day one of launch for Tmobile. That will be three wonderful lines of service. Nothing beats Tmobile today period.

    Reply
  • Avatar of O L Jackson

    Well anyone that want to leave Sprint now can do so until the 31st of this month.FREE.NO ETF.

    Reply
    • Good luck to all that try… I have tried twice unsuccessfully. The reps deny the contract changes citing that “there is no material change” in the contract. Sounds to me like a memo went out about this, because the two reps I got didn’t exactly come off as the type to use legal jargon AND the exact same phrasing. I’m getting ready to tell Sprint it’s been real and get with T-Mo.

      Reply
  • I’m in central Orange County California and many places I can not even get 3Gand never 4G. Sprint sucks.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Wes Stacey

    Does anyone know if t-mobile has any kind of deal where they will pay the ETF if you switch over from another carrier?

    I’m ready to jump ship from Sprint but my wife’s phone doesn’t go off contract until may of 2014.

    Reply
  • I’m seeing a lot of comments that people have switched to T-Mobile and they are happy, but everyone I talk to in my area (Virginia Beach/Norfolk) say that they absolutely hate T-mobile. They all complain about dropped calls, poor data speeds, and poor reception. Sprint has made a few bad moves in the past, and yes it is causing problems now, but I have not had a dropped call in over 10 years. My calls are all crisp and clear, I get decent internet speeds most of the time, and I can not even come close to using all of my family plan minutes even with a teenage daughter. I don’t like that Sprint did away with the upgrade plan, internet speeds can be painfully slow in certain areas, but I use wifi where ever I can, and deal with it as best I can.
    I think I am going to give SoftBank a chance to see what they do and if I’m not happy when my contract is up I will look elsewhere, but I doubt that T-mobile will be an option because I have heard nothing good about them yet.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Mr. V

      Don’t forget that sprint purchased Clear, and will implement that technology into new triband signal called ” sprint spark”
      where data speeds are 1gbs upload and download.
      on top of that i have been traveling across US 2 years ago for a year and i never had a problem with sprint. i use my self 20-30Gb of internet on my phone. so yeah sprint is better for me!

      Reply
  • I used to have TMo. I always had good coverage with TMo (traveled internationally) and their customer service was superb. But I left because I wanted to get the EVO 4G.

    Loved the phone, but couldn’t get good cell reception in the house. Sprint told me they didn’t guarantee coverage in the house, but in the open area. I told them I lived in a house, not outside.

    Instead of canceling the service, I had to pay for an Air Rave. I tried to get it free, but couldn’t (I did get the free Air Rave monthly service, but with mixed results). Even though the map showed good coverage, I couldn’t get WIMAX. 3G was okay.

    Upgraded to the 3VO and then 3G was virtually useless. At that point, I was done and happily paid a $90 ETF to go to Verizon. Sprint just seems like a big, hot mess.

    I love being on Verizon’s network. But just like Sprint and AT&T, they started taking away things the used to give (longer upgrade period, eliminating corproate discounts on things they used to discount, etc.). And they’re expensive. But they’re reliable and the network is fast – so I don’t mind paying a bit more for service that I know will work.

    TMo seems to be hitting ALL the right notes lately and I am seriously thinking about going back to them. I am one who does like to upgrade phones more frequently, so the JUMP plan is certainly of interest. They are doing things that I hope will revolutionlize what has become a customer-unfriendly industry.

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    • Mike, your comment that you told them you live in a house and not outside is hilarious!!

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  • If you live in the Tampa Bay area and are considering a switch from Sprint to T-mobile, do it! The coverage is so much better. I paid the ETF (mine was less than $100). I would’ve paid $200 just to be rid of Sprint.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Simon Belmont

    Totally agree with you, John. My jaw actually dropped at the progress on their LTE and other networks. I even said “man, if only Sprint could make this kind of progress in such a short period of time” to myself. Makes me glad that I’ve moved to T-Mobile.

    My Galaxy Nexus may not have LTE, but my wife’s HTC One does. I enjoy the fast HSPA+ that I’m getting on my phone. Even HSPA+ networks are expanding rapidly. so it’s the best of both worlds.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Dkoellerwx

    ” Finally, in July 2011, Sprint announced that it would build an LTE network, and LTE deployments began in Chicago later in October 2011. ”

    This statement is incredibly wrong. Sprint did not start it’s LTE deployment until March/April of 2012. They have only been upgrading the network for a bit over a year.

    T-Mobile was able to rapidly rollout LTE because they are only upgrading sites where they already have HSPA+, which already produce LTE-like speeds. Their upgrade is very different from Sprint. Since they are only upgrading these HSPA+ enabled sites, it means they already have Fiber at the ready, and all they have to do is slap on a couple of new panels. Sprint on the other hand, has to wait for a new delivery of backhaul (fiber) at each site, and is completely replacing all the equipment at each site. This takes much longer than just simply bolting on a couple new antennas.

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    • This site is becoming VERY anti-sprint. You can only expect one-sided coverage here.

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    • Your comment is really not very well thought out. The article is true. Sprint may have to do more work, but thats just because they rested on their laurels too long. When T-Moibile was adding fiber backhaul, sprint could have been doing it. Sprint could have been doing incremental updates long ago, but they just didn’t.

      I left Sprint after 10plus years and switched to T-Mobile. While I can say that Sprints voice service was better (clearer), T-Mobile overall is WAY better. If I am on an HD call, the voice quality is better too!

      Nice article…good read.

      Reply
  • I left Sprint for T-Mobile last week! I’m so happy with the service I’m receiving. I’m not going back to Sprint Ever!!

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  • I bailed on sprint last fall after 13 years. I now have 4 lines with TMobile all with unlimited minutes and texts for less than I paid for 2 lines with 1500 minutes on sprint.

    If I never saw LTE here in SLC the TMobile HSPA+ is light years faster than anything Sprint has or will ever deliver.

    Best decision I ever made leaving Sprint and going to TMobile with Nexus 4’s..

    Hesse improved customer service but network rollout is a colossal fail!

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    • Probably because there is only a few people using the network. Of course it is going to be fast.

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  • WANTing to find better cell phone deal for me an granddaughter,write now we how sprint since 2004 but think i can find better deal

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  • I have no idea what in the world that pick map above is trying to show, but it you want to see the REAL coverage map, including all the areas where you will get NO SERVICE with T-Mobile, go check it out here: http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/pcc.aspx/

    What did they do, just use a lighter shade of pink to represent areas where they have no coverage? Talk about false advertising…

    Reply
    • Sorry, “pink” not “pick” in the first sentence.

      Reply
  • Avatar of Same Ol C

    I discontinued my sprint 450 mins unlim text unlimited data $80/month plan with 4 months left on contract without penalty. I bought my Nexus 4 from google for $350 Nov 2012 right when T Mobile had a special and got a $100 T-Mobile credit for bringing my number over and 500 mins, unlimited text unlimited data with no throttling for $59.99 if I signed a contract. I am never looking back.

    Reply
  • This is the worst article ever. The author doesn’t have a clue and is completely biased. You sound like you work for Fox News.

    Reply
    • Avatar of stringfellow

      Get your head out of your arse. The author (Freml) has been covering this topic in general (Sprint) for quite sometime and is probably a better authority on this then you? I don’t see you publishing your name in a blog? Btw,he can be biased if he wanted to, blogs are more ed/op.

      And you just answered why Sprint is so horrible, and you think that gives them an excuse? Broken promises, undelivered services…most states/countries consider that a crime.

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      • Your good at putting words in people’s mouth. Sprint knows their current network is awful. How is it a crime if you choose to go through them. You have other options. Saying Sprint needs to learn how to deploy LTE from Tmobile is a dumb statement because tmobile is only adding LTE to each tower. Sprint has to rebuild every tower which takes months on some because of the back hall that needs to be done. You can add LTE equipment in a day and turn it on. Obviously tmobile is going to go a lot faster. The author clearly doesn’t have a clue as to what is going on. Why don’t you let him defend himself?

        Reply
        • Avatar of Roger Sales

          Here’s the thing, I agree with you on a lot of points. Yes, Sprint does have more work cut out for them because T-Mobile has a lot of fiber backhaul already. Yes, it is a longer rollout for them because of that. But here’s the thing about Sprint and you can disagree with me, is that they jumped the gun of 4G. They wanted to be pioneers in 2008 with a technology no one else was interested in, which meant no potential roaming deals, more expensive equipment, on a frequency that was already undesirable. No one told them they had to do this, they built their own path and it got them nowhere. The fact that it is now biting them in the ass in terms of roll out because they have none of that back-haul IS their fault in this aspect.The fact that they didn’t shutdown the Nextel network sooner is their fault. They made themselves an example not to follow in the race to LTE. I am a T-Mobile subscriber and maybe that’s bias on my part which I can admit, but at least I can say I have LTE in New York metro currently and my friend on Sprint is still struggling between 3G and 1x coverage.

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          • I have worked or been affiliated with the Sprint Telecommunications company since 1996. They ALWAYS announce rollouts and new initiatives ions before implementing them. Look at ION- which is what VZ FIOS is today. This company cannot implement anything they announce and usually end up dropping it in the long haul. Hate to say it- but after over 15 years as a customer @Sprint PCS I am sadly considering leaving- I never would imagine my coverage area would be worse not better, and truthfully I know all wireless service sucks- it’s just a matter of how much, and frankly running out of excuses/patience for this company. They should NEVER have purchased Nextel which was the beginning of the end.

      • A crime in most countries. What a joke.

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        • Avatar of Mario

          And then that’s when Tmo customers jump back since they don’t have contracts. I have sprint now and they’re not doing me any favors charging me 2x the price for half the performance. I’ll be back when it’s actually worth it.

          Reply
  • Tmobile just has to add LTE equipment to their towers and turn it on. Sprint is rebuilding their whole network. Obviously it is going to take Sprint longer. Do some research.

    Reply
  • I left Sprint after for 13 years in January.

    It was the combination of the worst data speeds of any of the 4 major carriers and their plans no longer offering the best value for me.

    I moved my two lines of service from Sprint to AT&T and went from a $150 monthly bill to $110. The vastly improved data speeds are just icing on the cake for a decision that made sense from a purely economic perspective.

    I am also in charge of cellular service at my work and we have close out our five lines of service there as well and moved them to AT&T for the exact same reasons.

    Trying to “justify” Sprint’s lackluster LTE rollout as being a “totally different” from TMO’s is being obtusely pedantic.

    Sprint was first to the market with “next generation” speeds. While their lost gamble on I left Sprint after for 13 years in January.

    It was the combination of the worst data speeds of any of the 4 major carriers and their plans no longer offering the best value for me.

    I moved my two lines of service from Sprint to AT&T and went from a $150 monthly bill to $110. The vastly improved data speeds are just icing on the cake for a decision that made sense from a purely economic perspective.

    I am also in charge of cellular service at my work and we have close out our five lines of service there as well and moved them to AT&T for the exact same reasons.

    Trying to “justify” Sprint’s lackluster LTE rollout as being a “totally different” from TMO’s is being obtusely pedantic.

    Sprint was first to the market with “next generation” speeds. While their lost gamble on WiMax can be excused (or even commended), their mismanagement of their network infrastructure is not.

    Sprint has been in the “4G” game longer than TMO. Pointing out that Sprint’s cell sites need more of a backhaul upgrade than TMO’s do is just more damming to Sprint. Regardless of the transmission format being used every carrier has known that the individual cell sites need more backend bandwidth to deploy any flavor of “4G”.

    So, yes, Sprint’s WiMAX deploy put them behind the game in LTE rollout, but it SHOULD HAVE put them ahead of the game in backhaul upgrades. It clearly did not. And that says more bad things about them than their choice in “4G” technologies does.

    And could we please stop with the “Well, there are so few people on that new network, that is why it is fast” as a justification of why Sprint’s last place data speeds are “not so bad”. As a Customer, I don’t care why my speeds are good or bad. If they are bad, I am going to look for something better. My speeds are better on AT&T, period. If Sprints speeds get better than AT&T’s I would love to come back. But I’m not holding my breath.

    On equipment side of this equation: I love my HTC One. Easily the best phone I have ever owned. I’m running TrickDroid 7.5.0 on it and it is exquisite!

    Reply
    • Backhaul for wimax is completely different then it is for LTE. Do a little research. And have fun with your overpriced limited data.

      Reply
      • Avatar of stringfellow

        At John (not Freml): You know you are putting your foot in your mouth? Regardless if what “type” of LTE Sprint is TRYING to rollout, they are still sucking at it. That is a fact! The RESEARCH proves that.

        Overpriced limited data is still a better deal than NONEXISTENT unlimited LTE data. Btw, I am with TMo and my two line of unlimited everthing(talk/text/data) is $30 cheaper than what I had with Sprint. Furthermore, I have 30mbs download speeds on TMo’s 4gLTE! What speeds do you get? Can you watch a movie on Netflix without it buffering?

        Reply
    • Avatar of Roger Sales

      The argument that T-Mobile has less customers so their data service is better doesn’t work, because they also have less spectrum. Instead of complaining they don’t have spectrum ALL the time(ala AT&T), they made a plan to stretch their resources with what they had and make it work. The result is a great 4G(Be it HSPA+ or LTE) experience without the bill that usually comes with it.

      Reply
  • It may seem like 4G race is over, but reality is it won’t be until LTE advanced is fully deployed. This is where Sprint will have the last laugh. Everyone is merely doing soft upgrades and calling it done. Sprint is building LTE advanced concurrently to LTE. Everyone else is gonna have to upgrade their backhaul while sprint merely flips up a switch.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Biker1

    Left Sprint about a year ago after 13 years of being a loyal customer. Due to their Disastrous non service on my S3, and a multitude of issues of most calls being disconnected, I got the etf waived after 2 months into a new 2 year contract after writing to the FCC and FTC.
    The writing was on the wall regarding 4G LTE and their broken promises after their 4G wimax Epic Fail.
    I moved to Verizon, But their pricing was Horrendous regarding their data charges, so I was paying $35/month for Virgin Broadband 2 Go which was adding up in cost in addition to not being able to use LTE on by S3.
    I paid Verizon their ETF after about 5 months and decided to give T-Mobile another try. I heard negative things about their service as recently as 2 years ago, but my choice of carriers were running out. I went into a store and tried the S4 and got great LTE signal. Btw, Sprint was across the street and their S4 was only able to get 3G lol!
    I tried out the S4 for the trial period and have been with T-Mobile for about 5 months now. T-Mobile service is Platinum!! I get LTE in areas that I wasn’t able to with Verizon, although that was with an S3 around 8 months ago, but Verizon usually gets signal almost everywhere.
    I’m extremely impressed with T-Mobile’s service/coverage areas and their pricing.
    They are not the T-Mobile of yesteryear. No comparison.
    I don’t see why more people aren’t jumping the Verizon ship,my for T-Mobile (unless they have grandfathered unlimited data… for now) and Sprint is, and has been a lost cause for a Loooong while. Their BS and never ending lying promises are Abominable, and show how little they respect their customers.
    T-Mobile blows Sprint outta the water regarding Service, and their ability to function as a Carrier in the best interest of their Customers without all the Smoke & Mirrors, and also leaves Verizon behind in a trail of dust regarding their very fair data pricing for Unlimited LTE data service, where as the same service from Verizon would cost hundreds of dollars.

    Reply

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