“We delivered our nationwide 4G LTE network months ahead of schedule, thanks in part to the strong partnership and expert support of Nokia. What’s more, our nationwide 4G LTE network is the fastest in the US, which translates to a great experience for all of our data-hungry customers.” Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer, T-Mobile US
The modernization project has delivered substantial benefits for T-Mobile, not least the fact that it is now in a leading position ahead of its rivals, a major leap from the situation before the project start. The LTE data consumptions has increased 6.3 fold since the launch of Un-carrier™ in March 2013. T-Mobile is the fastest-growing wireless provider in the country, boasting more than 55 million subscribers, while churn has been reduced to just 1.7% and LTE coverage now reaching 265M population nationwide. T-Mobile’s LTE network led in nationwide performance with the highest average 4G LTE download speed of 19.2 Mbps; that’s 7% faster than Verizon, 28% faster than AT&T, and nearly twice as fast as Sprint. (source: T-Mobile Q4 2014 Investor Factbook)
T-Mobile LTE leadership – behind the success Nokia services expertise
T-Mobile faced a major challenge in 2012 when it found itself lagging its rivals in the delivery of next-generation LTE services. As the fourth largest of America’s national wireless operators, T-Mobile had an overall smaller licensed spectrum allocation and network footprint than AT&T and Verizon.
The operator also had no previous LTE footprint and needed to catch-up to its larger competitors, who were already between two and four years ahead with their own LTE networks.
To compete, T-Mobile decided to roll out a high-quality LTE network as fast as possible. The ambitious network modernization project aimed to serve 200 million Americans with LTE by the end of 2013. The project would be achieved by modernizing its existing GSM and UMTS footprints, which enabled re-farming of spectrum for a brand new LTE network.
An important factor for T-Mobile was to maintain or improve the experience of existing customers while the transformation took place. This meant that excellent coordination would be needed throughout the project, as well as a high degree of skill in network optimization.
T-Mobile began collaboration with Nokia Networks at the end of 2011, with the modernization rollout scheduled to begin just six months later. The company needed to work rapidly and efficiently with T-Mobile to deliver a new hardware solution to fit the frequency requirements. Nokia Networks hardware and software solutions included a range of custom features to suit T-Mobile’s network and maximize the ability to refarm spectrum from existing GSM and UMTS sites, as well as boosting overall coverage.
Ambitious roll-out – Working from day one
The rollout began on schedule and started slowly to ensure that proper planning and preparation would reduce the impact on end users. The Nokia Networks LTE hardware and software solutions developed for T-Mobile worked from day one, delivering improvements in the downlink and uplink speeds.
The speed of the deployment soon ramped up. By the fall, more than 4,000 GSM sites were upgraded and the first LTE sites were online. By the end of 2013, Nokia had built 5,700 sites and upgraded and optimized nearly 15,000 existing T-Mobile sites for LTE.
At the peak of the rollout, 1,500 professionals were working on the network, managing around 1,000 sites per month. T-Mobile’s goal of delivering nationwide LTE coverage by Q3 2013 was met three months early.
This required focused and transparent communication and timely information sharing between all parties to meet the defined KPI all the time. The right expertise and project management practices along with automated field management tools and reporting improve accuracy and speed of roll-outs.
Watch a video showing our expert, Antonio Martins, discussing in detail of the network project practices we implemented.
Ambitious network performance – top notch network optimization
Nokia Networks also brought its extensive network optimization expertise, assembling a task force to focus meeting the agreed 30 key performance indicators (KPIs) on cluster level for all 3 technologies and keeping T-mobiles subscriber experience in the same or improved level throughout the project. The aim was to go beyond conventional optimization procedures to deliver extra performance and value for T- Mobile. After 10 weeks we delivered above the target and at the 15-20 week timeframe, over 95% of sites were performing at or above the KPI target.