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Studies show Sprint and T-Mobile need to expand U.S. coverage

Matt Hamblen | March 10, 2014
Two major studies released this week of the nation's largest wireless networks put Verizon on top in nearly every technical network measurement, with AT&T close behind and Sprint and T-Mobile trailing.

After the two studies were released, Verizon crowed in a blog that it offers wireless network coverage "where and when customers want it."

At T-Mobile, CEO Legere tweeted Wednesday that the carrier uses "real results from real people when we make network claims," an apparent comment on RootMetrics' use of workers driving in cars to conduct its network tests. Last year, T-Mobile urged its customers to do their own network tests by using a special CoverMap app. Legere has used results from those customers to make some of his claims about T-Mobile's performance.

To its credit, T-Mobile understands the need to grab a larger U.S. footprint, and purchased 700 MHz spectrum from Verizon in January that covers portions of the Northeast, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and California. Referring to T-Mobile's emerging network footprint, Legere also tweeted: "Congrats to our competitors — you guys really knocked it out of the park on that [RootMetrics] report, LAST year when the tests were done."

It's safe to say that both the JD Power and RootMetrics findings point to a need for a possible combined Sprint-T-Mobile to expand beyond network coverage in cities and to even improve inside cities, in the case of Sprint.

For federal policy makers, the question becomes whether it is better to let Sprint and T-Mobile continue on their separate paths and try to expand spectrum and geographic footprints — and possibly network performance — alone or to work together to grow and buy more spectrum to offer greater national coverage. The key word there is "possibly."


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