MWC: T-Mobile CTO wants to go all-LTE by 2020

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

US mobile operator T-Mobile plans to ditch its 2G and 3G networks for an all-LTE infrastructure when it launches 5G in 2020

This was the goal set out for T-Mobile by chief technology officer Neville Ray, speaking to journalists at an Ericsson press event at Mobile World Congress.

Ray told journalists that the US subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom wants to drive all of its network over 4G and 5G networks by switching off 2G and 3G, freeing up additional spectrum.

“When we move to 5G, I don’t want to have a 2G or 3G network behind me,” Ray said. “LTE is not dead yet. It is where we build the foundation.”

Ray admitted there were challenges to this, however, most notably around legacy voice technology and handsets. In order for T-Mobile to switch of its legacy infrastructure, it would need all customers to have access to either voice over LTE (VoLTE) or voice over IP (VoIP) services.

VoLTE requires more modern handsets, meaning customers would need to abandon their older devices for newer models.

Ray added: “There is a big problem around legacy handsets. We all understand US handset refresh cycles, right? We’ve already got two million customers using VoLTE – we think that’s one of the highest numbers around – but we’d need more to go all LTE.”

A further challenge T-Mobile will face is LTE roaming. According to newly-released figures from Syniverse, a business services provider, just 42% of the world’s data roaming is done on 4G

Some US operators have already began switching off 2G services. AT&T turned off its legacy network in January, while Verizon is also planning to shut off its 2G network.

The Americas do lead the way, according to the figures, accounting for four times as much global LTE roaming traffic than the rest of the world’s regions combined.

“By measuring global LTE roaming, we can see that the tipping point hasn’t occurred yet. In the harsh reality of competition today, providing LTE roaming can be a differentiator, and Syniverse is uniquely positioned to enable the truly global experience,” said Mary Clark, Syniverse CMO and chief of staff.

“Because of our unrivalled scale as a platform at the centre of mobile, Syniverse is the only company capable of delivering this insight to assess the global state of LTE, and our data shows that, despite early 5G momentum, 4G still has a long way to go.”

Ray said T-Mobile hasn’t began switching off services because a number of machine-to-machine connections still rely on the older technology. He said T-Mobile had gained customers due to rival’s plans to switch off their services.

“When one of our rivals began to switch off 2G, some of those M2M connections that still use 2G SIMs came over to us. So we have found a good, low cost use for our existing 2G network and spectrum. But 70% of our spectrum has now been prioritised for LTE services.”