On Friday, March 13, the FCC’s chairman Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge calling for U.S. telecom companies to adopt additional measures and ensure Americans remain connected during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Less than 24 hours later, T-Mobile announced it was partnering with companies including Dish, Bluewater Wireless, LB Holdings and others to light up an additional 600 MHz spectrum and expand network capacity to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on daily life.
Opensignal analyzed T-Mobile’s use of the 600 MHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) during four weeks in March, and found that T-Mobile took less than three days to start deploying the additional spectrum it received from Dish and other companies. As a result, we saw users on T-Mobile’s network experiencing twice as fast 4G Download Speeds when they connected to the 600 MHz band.
This analysis shows how, with an incredibly rapid set of actions, the U.S. telecom industry came together to create an impact that benefited millions of Americans. Typically, the approval and deployment of new spectrum is something that can take years so for this to be achieved in a matter of days makes it all the more impressive.
At the beginning of March, Opensignal observed that T-Mobile was using 600 MHz spectrum for 4G in 84 of the top 100 U.S. CMAs. Our data shows that T-Mobile was using 10 MHz of paired spectrum (5 MHz in downlink and 5 MHz in uplink) in 82 CMAs, while using 20 MHz in Washington, DC and Springfield, MA.
On Monday, March 16 — two days after T-Mobile announced it was partnering with other companies to boost its network capacity — Opensignal began observing changes in T-Mobile’s use of the 600 MHz band. Within a further two days, T-Mobile had deployed additional 600 MHz spectrum in 76 CMAs, and by the end of March T-Mobile was using on average 26.6 MHz of the 600 MHz spectrum for 4G in 89 markets of the top 100 CMAs.
Since the operator began boosting its 600 MHz spectrum, we observed T-Mobile increasing the amount of spectrum in use for 4G on two separate occasions in 32 markets, most commonly going from 10MHz to 20MHz, then increasing to 30 MHz.
Opensignal’s data shows that T-Mobile is deploying an increasing amount of spectrum, and that T-Mobile still has additional capacity it could immediately deploy, if needed.
T-Mobile’s 4G spectrum boost had an immediate impact on mobile speeds
Opensignal users on T-Mobile’s network saw their 4G Download Speed rise significantly since the very first days of T-Mobile’s spectrum change. At the beginning of March, our users on T-Mobile’s network saw on average 4G Download Speeds of 9.9 Mbps when they connected to the 600 MHz band. At the end of March, they on average experienced 4G Download Speeds of 20.2 Mbps, showing the impact of the spectrum boost implemented by the operator.
The world is now facing a COVID-19 pandemic, with an array of medical, social and economic challenges. In such trying times, connectivity is critical while telecommunications companies are experiencing rising data usage and congestion on their networks. Mobile operators and regulators around the globe are now taking actions to ensure consumers remain connected with the U.S. at the forefront.
Opensignal’s data demonstrates that many U.S. smartphone users saw an improvement in their mobile experience less than a week after the FCC launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Our analysis reveals that T-Mobile started integrating part of the additional spectrum it received on loan from companies including Dish, Bluewater Wireless, LB Holdings and others in less than three days. Finally, our data highlights that T-Mobile is yet to fully deploy all of the 600 MHz spectrum it has access to and therefore has potential to boost capacity even further.
Opensignal Limited retains ownership of this insight including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports and insights produced by Opensignal Limited may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent. Journalists are encouraged to quote information included in Opensignal reports and insights provided they include clear source attribution. For more information, contact [email protected].