AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile Tout Boosted Cellular Capacity Across Twin Cities in Anticipation of Super Bowl LII

In November, AT&T shared its plans to launch its "5G Evolution" network -- which isn't true 5G -- in select areas of Minneapolis as part of its overall plan to boost cellular coverage in the city during Super Bowl LII. This week, three of the major United States cellular carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile -- each outlined their own plans to ensure that customers retain quality coverage in the Twin Cities on the weekend of February 4.

U.S. Bank Stadium via Darb02 / Wikimedia Commons

AT&T said its users can expect "a better mobile experience" in the city, with technology it's been working on for over a year that combines both permanent and temporary upgrades to the carrier's cellular connectivity. The company's $40 million investment in its Minneapolis wireless network boost includes coverage within the U.S. Bank Stadium (where the game will take place), as well as outside the stadium in hotels, airports, and other venues that will see increased traffic in a few weeks.

AT&T's upgrades:
  • Upgraded in-stadium Distributed Antenna System (DAS) offering "nearly 220% more LTE capacity."

  • More than 800 hidden antennas in the stadium to help manage wireless traffic.

  • DAS installed at 16 total locations in Minneapolis.

  • 10 Cell on Wheels (COWs, or temporary towers) deployed to further support reliability of AT&T's network.

  • 5G Evolution with 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and 3-way carrier aggregation in select areas on supported smartphones.

Verizon predicted a "blizzard" of data usage for the Super Bowl this year, and said it's been working for two years on preparing the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area for the event. Verizon focused on its more permanent updates, which include boosted performance in the U.S. Bank Stadium and other venues throughout the Twin Cities area.

Verizon's upgrades:
  • 24 new permanent cell sites and more than 230 permanent small cell sites.

  • Introduction of LTE Advanced features to 4G LTE network "for greater capacity and faster peak data speeds."

  • Addition of 48 percent more antennas to DAS inside stadium.

  • New neural host DAS in Mall of America to boost network capacity by 900 percent.

  • Similar system added to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport to boost network capacity by more than 1,000 percent.

T-Mobile laid out similar upgrades it's been working on for the last two years, which it said make its LTE network "the fastest in the Twin Cities." Those on T-Mobile's network can expect boosted network capacity in the U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minneapolis Convention Center, Xcel Energy Center, and locations like the Armory, Nicollet Mall, downtown St. Paul, Mall of America, and the International Airport.

T-Mobile's upgrades:
  • Boosting network capacity 30x in U.S. Bank Stadium, 35x in the convention center, and 16x in Xcel Energy Center.

  • Doubling the amount of LTE spectrum in the Twin Cities, along with carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO.

  • Deploying more than 120 small cells across Minneapolis and surrounding areas.

  • Increasing upload speeds up to 40 percent inside the stadium with Centralized Radio Access Network (C-RAN) technology.

Sprint's news on boosted Super Bowl network coverage came in a press release last month. Sprint users will get much of the same bonuses as the other carriers, with the company installing a DAS with 800 antennas inside the stadium, as well as small cells installed on lamp posts and street lights throughout Minneapolis. There will also be the "Sprint Magic Box," which Sprint described as the "world's first all-wireless small cell" to be placed in hundreds of locations across the Twin Cities to boost indoor data speeds by an average of 200 percent.

Although it won't launch in time for Super Bowl LII, T-Mobile has also provided more details on its own plans for a true 5G network, while commenting on AT&T's "#Fake5G" debut in 2017. T-Mobile said its schedule for 5G hasn't changed, and is still on track to debut nationwide by 2020. The company said it's been "encouraged" by confirmed chipset and OEM plans to launch wider support for 5G smartphones in 2019, which will initiate broad support for a "real 5G" network.


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T-Mobile Announces BOGO Rebate Offer: Get Up to $700 Off Second iPhone 7, 8, or X

T-Mobile today announced a few new offers that will be activated beginning this Friday, January 12, one of which is focused on Apple's latest iPhones, including the iPhone X. With the deal, new and existing T-Mobile customers can buy one iPhone and get up to $700 off another iPhone of equal or lesser value, offered in the form of a rebate received via prepaid card.

The BOGO rebate applies to the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X, which must be purchased and activated on one of T-Mobile's Equipment Installment Plans. Other qualifications include needing to port in "at least one new line" on a T-Mobile ONE or select Simple Choice Unlimited plan, and trade in one eligible iPhone, LG, or Samsung smartphone.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with T-Mobile. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

T-Mobile broke down the steps for the offer on its website:
- Purchase two new iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, or X devices on equipment installment plans.
- Port in at least one new voice line onto an eligible rate plan to be used with one of the new devices.
- Trade in an eligible device
- Submit a request on the T-Mobile Rebates page (including IMEI entry) using promo code 18Q1APLBOGO within 30 days of second device purchase.
Instead of offering the rebate to customers in the form of monthly bill credits, T-Mobile will send those who complete these steps a prepaid MasterCard card with their rebate amount, around six to eight weeks later. While the new deal is not a straight discount since it still requires a standard payment plan, those who take advantage of the offer could eventually get a notable markdown on a second iPhone X, or even receive a cheaper iPhone for free. The rebate extends to Samsung and LG smartphones, so visit T-Mobile's page for the offer for more details.

T-Mobile also added the iPhone X to its "#GetOutOfTheRed" program, in which the company pays off customers' existing Verizon smartphones (up to $650 on a virtual prepaid card) when they choose to switch to T-Mobile ONE or ONE Plus International plans. T-Mobile said that all of the new offers start Friday and can be combined on the same account but not on the same line.

Fore more of the latest offers, sales, and rebates happening in the new year, check out our full Deals Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

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T-Mobile Announces Internet TV Service Coming in 2018

T-Mobile today announced that it will launch its own over-the-top TV service in 2018, which will be fueled in part through the acquisition of Layer3 TV. Details about the service are scarce, but T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that it will continue the company's theme of being a "disruptive" solution to its rivals, this time in both the internet TV and paid cable markets.

Layer3 TV will help T-Mobile build the service, which is said to provide solutions to lengthy contracts, increasing monthly bill costs, confusing bundles, outdated user interfaces, and more. T-Mobile will fold in Layer3 TV's current services and expand it to a wider audience. Right now this includes select TV channels, streaming online video content, and social media, but is only available in five U.S. cities.

Non-finalized demo of T-Mobile's upcoming service via T-Mobile's YouTube channel
“People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it – the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We’re gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “It only makes sense for the Un-carrier to do to TV what we’re doing to wireless: change it for good! Personally, I can’t wait to start fighting for consumers here!”
T-Mobile's service will enter a busy streaming TV market, which currently includes DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and many more. Companies are even beginning to offer internet streaming bundles that focus on catering to specific audiences, like Philo, which is aimed at viewers not interested in sports channels and offers much cheaper monthly costs.


T-Mobile and Sprint almost merged recently, but the companies called off the merger in November because they were unable to find "mutually agreeable terms." At the time, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that while a deal with Sprint was a "compelling" idea, it would have needed to offer "significant benefits" for both consumers and shareholders.


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T-Mobile and Sprint Officially Call Off Merger

T-Mobile and Sprint today announced that plans for a merger have officially ended after the two companies were unable to find "mutually agreeable terms."

Rumors last week suggested the merger might be called off because Sprint parent company SoftBank was having doubts about the deal over the ownership terms. SoftBank was concerned about "losing control" of the combined company, as T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom wanted a controlling stake.


The two companies allegedly attempted to save the merger by negotiating new terms after Deutsche Telekom submitted a revised offer, but an agreement was not able to be reached.

In a statement, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said a that while a deal with Sprint was "compelling," it would have needed to offer "significant benefits" for both consumers and shareholders.
"The prospect of combining with Sprint has been compelling for a variety of reasons, including the potential to create significant benefits for consumers and value for shareholders. However, we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile's shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record. Going forward, T-Mobile will continue disrupting this industry and bringing our proven Un-carrier strategy to more customers and new categories - ultimately redefining the mobile Internet as we know it. We've been out-growing this industry for the last 15 quarters, delivering outstanding value for shareholders, and driving significant change across wireless. We won't stop now."
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said Sprint had decided that it would be best to move forward alone. Sprint will instead aim to "compete fiercely" in the wireless industry.
"While we couldn't reach an agreement to combine our companies, we certainly recognize the benefits of scale through a potential combination. However, we have agreed that it is best to move forward on our own. We know we have significant assets, including our rich spectrum holdings, and are accelerating significant investments in our network to ensure our continued growth. As convergence in the connectivity marketplace continues, we believe significant opportunities exist to establish strong partnerships across multiple industries. We are determined to continue our efforts to change the wireless industry and compete fiercely. We look forward to continuing to take the fight to the duopoly and newly emerging competitors."
This is the second time that T-Mobile and Sprint have failed to reach a merger agreement. Sprint parent company SoftBank attempted to purchase T-Mobile back in 2013 in a deal worth more than $20 billion, but ultimately abandoned its plans in 2014 amid regulatory scrutiny.

Even had the deal succeeded this time around, it's not clear if it would have gained regulatory approval. Back in 2014, U.S. antitrust regulators said having four national carriers in the United States was important for maintaining a competitive market.


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Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Might Be Over Amid Fight for Control of Combined Company

Sprint parent company SoftBank may call off a planned merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, report Nikkei and Reuters.

SoftBank's board of directors is said to be having doubts about the deal due to a failure to reach an agreement about the ownership of the combined T-Mobile/Sprint entity. SoftBank is worried about "losing control" of the combined company, according to sources that spoke to Reuters.


Rumors suggest SoftBank could approach T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom as soon as Tuesday to end the talks. Deutsche Telekom wanted a controlling stake in the combined company, which SoftBank's board has ultimately decided not to agree to. T-Mobile is still attempting to keep the deal going, but Deutsche Telekom does not plan to budge on demands for control.

A T-Mobile and Sprint merger deal has been in the works since February of 2017, and as recently as September, the deal was said to be close to done as SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom worked out the final details. T-Mobile CEO John Legere was set to lead the combined company.

Should the deal ultimately fall through, it will be the second time Sprint and T-Mobile have failed to reach an agreement. Sprint parent company SoftBank attempted to purchase T-Mobile in a 2013 deal worth more than $20 billion, but SoftBank abandoned its plans in 2014 amid regulatory scrutiny.

Even if the deal progresses and SoftBank does not end the merger, it's still unclear if it will gain regulatory approval this time around. In 2014, U.S. antitrust regulators said having four national carriers was important to maintaining a competitive market.


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T-Mobile to Cap ‘Mobile Without Borders’ Feature at 5GB of LTE Data Per Month Starting November 12

T-Mobile this week quietly announced plans to tweak the way its "Mobile Without Borders" feature works, adding a 5GB data cap.

Introduced in 2015 as an Un-carrier initiative, Mobile Without Borders is a T-Mobile feature that's designed to extend LTE coverage and calling to Mexico and Canada at no additional charge. It was designed to use a customer's normal voice, message, and LTE data allotments while roaming in Mexico or Canada.


With an unlimited data plan, customers using Mobile Without Borders had access to "unlimited" 4G LTE data up to the standard cap of 50GB while in Canada or Mexico.

Starting on November 12, T-Mobile is limiting LTE data usage for Mobile Without Borders to a maximum of 5GB. After 5GB of data has been used in Mexico or Canada, or a high-speed data allotment has been reached, data speeds will be downgraded to Simple Global speeds (128kb/s for most T-Mobile plans, or 256kb/s for T-Mobile ONE Plus).

T-Mobile says that less than 1 percent of people who travel to Canada or Mexico use over 5GB in a month, and that the change is being implemented to "prevent usage beyond the intent of the product."

Customers who need more than 5GB of LTE data in Mexico or Canada can sign up for the T-Mobile ONE Plus International plan, which is an additional $25 per month on top of the cost of a T-Mobile ONE plan.


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T-Mobile Continues to Advertise Fastest 4G LTE Network Despite Verizon Complaint

T-Mobile plans to continue advertisements where it claims to have the fastest 4G LTE network in the United States despite complaints from Verizon and a recommendation to stop from the National Advertising Division (NAD), the company told Ars Technica in a statement today.

The National Advertising Division, which aims to review advertisements for truthfulness and accuracy to settle disputes without litigation, last week said the data T-Mobile used as proof for its fastest network claim was not sufficient.


T-Mobile used crowd-sourced data from Ookla and Open Signal to support its claim, with the data collected in early 2017 around when Verizon's unlimited data plan first rolled out. Verizon complained to the NAB and said the speed tests may have included data from Verizon customers who had been deprioritized for the first time after using over 22GB of data, making them inaccurate.

The NAD agreed that the tests may have had a bias in favor of T-Mobile and recommended T-Mobile stop all advertisements claiming to have the fastest network.

T-Mobile agreed to comply with the NAD's recommendation, but found a loophole with updated data. Instead of basing its claims on data collected earlier this year during the time that Verizon's unlimited data plan rolled out, T-Mobile now cites new OpenSignal and Ookla data on its website collected later in 2017. T-Mobile says it plans to continue on with its advertisements using the new data.
"On the fastest LTE network challenge, NAD ruled that the one month of crowd-sourced data we submitted (when Verizon launched their unlimited plan) could not be used," said T-Mobile Senior VP of corporate communications Janice Kapner. "NAD previously recognized third-party crowd-sourced data as a way to look at network performance, so we looked at the latest results, and verified what we already knew! T-Mobile is still the fastest LTE network and we'll continue to let consumers know that!"

"We did say we'd comply with NAD's recommendation, and we will, but that means we won't rely solely on the specific data we submitted. We have taken the NAD's concerns into consideration and are confident we have robust data that addresses them and proves, once again, that we have the fastest LTE network," a company spokesperson told Ars.
As T-Mobile says, the NAD recommendation only applies to data collected during the initial test cited in Verizon's complaint and not to the new data that's been collected. Verizon can submit a new complaint, though, which will require the NAD to again take a look at the data T-Mobile is using.


While T-Mobile plans to continue to say that it has the fastest LTE network, the company has agreed to modify some other claims about its coverage. The NAD looked at the following T-Mobile claims:

- T-Mobile has near-equivalent area and/or geographic coverage as Verizon
- T-Mobile covers 99% of the area covered by Verizon
- T-Mobile covers 313,312 or "311 Million and Counting" Americans with 4G LTE
- T-Mobile "covers 99% of the Americans that Verizon covers" and 99% of Verizon's customers

T-Mobile does cover 99.7 percent as many Americans as Verizon, but it does not offer 99.7 percent of the geographic coverage that Verizon offers, so the NAD recommended T-Mobile modify its advertising to make it clear that coverage comparisons are based on population. T-Mobile says it will comply with the request going forward and will remove ads featuring imagery of geographic coverage that could be confusing.


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T-Mobile and Sprint ‘Close’ to Finalizing Merger Deal, John Legere Said to Lead Combined Company

T-Mobile and Sprint are said to be "close to agreeing" to terms regarding a deal that would merge the third and fourth largest United States wireless carriers together. People close to the deal told Reuters that Sprint parent company SoftBank would own 40 to 50 percent of the combined company, while T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom will gain the majority stake.

The terms of the deal are expected to be finalized by the end of October, "though talks may still fall through," the two sources said. Previously, U.S. antitrust officials told Sprint that a merger with another wireless carrier would face intense scrutiny because having four major carriers in the U.S. was important to maintaining a competitive market. During those talks a few years ago the situation of the companies was reversed -- since T-Mobile had yet to gain in popularity -- with Sprint seeking to acquire T-Mobile for more than $20 billion.


Now, those concerns are said to come into play again with regulatory scrutiny expected to face any deal between Sprint and T-Mobile "over concerns that the U.S. wireless market is becoming too concentrated."
T-Mobile US Inc is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Once terms are finalized, due diligence by the two companies will follow and a deal is expected by the end of October, though talks may still fall through, the sources said.
If the merger happens, the resulting company would have revenues topping $70 billion and more than 130 million subscribers, falling in line behind the two other major U.S. carriers -- Verizon and AT&T -- in terms of subscribers.

The combined company would be led by T-Mobile CEO John Legere, according to the sources, thanks to T-Mobile outperforming Sprint under his leadership. The new company would also undertake a "massive" effort to cut costs early on.


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iPhone 8 and iPhone X Don’t Support T-Mobile’s Upcoming 600 MHz LTE Network

Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X are not compatible with LTE Band 71, aka T-Mobile's new 600 MHz spectrum the company plans on rolling out in the United States as soon as this year.

All new iPhone models in the United States support FDD-LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, and 66, and TD-LTE bands 4, 38, 39, 40, and 41, according to the Tech Specs page for the devices.

Support for additional bands can't be added retroactively, so Apple's devices will not work with LTE Band 71 until support is added to future iPhones.


T-Mobile purchased the 600 MHz spectrum in an FCC auction in April of 2017. Shortly after, T-Mobile announced plans to use the spectrum to deliver 5G coverage starting in 2019, but later said it would use the spectrum to improve its network in rural America starting this year.

Unfortunately, by the time T-Mobile purchased the spectrum and announced plans for rapid implementation, the LTE chips and the hardware for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X were likely already secured, giving Apple no time to build in support for a newly announced LTE band.


T-Mobile in August activated the first 600 MHz LTE site in Cheyenne, Wyoming and has said it will deploy the spectrum at a "record-shattering pace" with plans to roll out 600 MHz sites in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia, and Eastern Washington, but whether T-Mobile will hit that goal and get 600 MHz support in those locations by the end of 2017 remains to be seen.

As Peter Cohen points out, deploying the 600 MHz network is a complicated, time-consuming process that will span several years, so most iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X users won't be heavily affected by the lack of support for the new LTE band at this time.
Like every other carrier, T-Mobile is entirely dependent on a nationwide industry of independent cellular tower owners, operators and technicians to get their hardware deployed. Even if T-Mobile had unlimited funds to get a 600 MHz network up and running, there simply aren't enough people in the industry who can climb the towers, install the new hardware, test it and get it working for them. What we're talking about is a huge infrastructure effort that goes way beyond just flipping a switch and turning it on.
T-Mobile says Band 71 adds increased building penetration and covers greater distances. When used in metro areas, it improves in-building coverage, and in rural areas, it improves the company's LTE footprint.

There are no existing devices that support T-Mobile's new spectrum at this time. Like Apple's newest devices, for example, Samsung's Galaxy S8 and new Galaxy Note 8 do not offer support. T-Mobile has said that LG and Samsung will launch devices compatible with the spectrum by the end of the year, and LG's upcoming LG V30 will be one of the first devices to support it.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iPhone X
Tag: T-Mobile
Buyer's Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)

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Apple Watch Series 3 Limited to 3G-Like Speeds on T-Mobile

Apple's new Apple Watch Series 3 models support LTE and UMTS connectivity, but on T-Mobile, LTE connection speeds won't be available. The carrier is limiting the Apple Watch to a maximum speed of 512kb/s, which is more like a 3G connection than an LTE connection.

The speed limitation is noted in T-Mobile's fine print, which says the maximum wearables speed is 512kb/s. It's also noted on the pre-order page when adding an Apple Watch Series 3 to your cart.


At issue is T-Mobile's ONE plan, which limits both tethering and all wearable devices to 512kb/s. While most users are unlikely to be streaming video or doing other tasks that require high connectivity speeds on the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch is also unlikely to be a data hog, so it's unclear why T-Mobile has this limitation in place.

No other major carrier in the United States, including Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T appears to be throttling Apple Watch speeds.

All four of the carriers are charging the same $10 per month fee to add an Apple Watch to an existing iPhone plan, and each one is offering a limited time promotion that waives monthly fees for the first three months.

The LTE Apple Watch Series 3 models became available for pre-order early this morning, with new devices slated to arrive on Friday, September 22, the official launch date for the device.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Tag: T-Mobile
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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