Following this morning’s announcement of the MetroPCS-T-Mobile reverse merger, both companies confirmed that the current CDMA network used by MetroPCS will be shut down by 2015, with the spectrum used for that network repurposed for T-Mobile’s HSPA service on the 1900MHz band which it started transitioning 3G service to earlier this year in order to draw iPhone users to the network. The goal is to move 3G HSPA and GSM service completely to the 1900MHz band and keeping the AWS 1700 band dedicated to LTE service, making things easier on the network management side for the newly combined company.
Fighting off comparisons to the botched Sprint/Nextel merger, the companies stated that the transition to HSPA/LTE is made easier by the fact that device turnover rates on MetroPCS are higher than average due to the no contract nature of the service. Representatives also stated that it will be able to offer incentives to MetroPCS customers to convert to the HSPA/LTE network for those customers that are more steadfast in remaining on the CDMA service.
Although the CDMA 1x network is where the majority of MetroPCS customers use the most service with LTE usage growing at a steady rate, the network has historically been the Achilles Heel for the carrier as it was never able to offer EVDO service on a consistent basis, thus the move to LTE and frequent capacity issues were what led to the move in the first place after winning big in the 2007-2008 AWS spectrum auction, with the spectrum initially being used to expand its CDMA network to more markets, then being split in 2009-10 in order to roll out LTE service in select markets.
With the move to shutdown the CDMA network in 2015, it would also mark the official end of MetroPCS as a service, since the new T-Mobile is expected to use the MetroPCS retail presence in order to reflect the network conversion and use it to push the changes to the network for current MetroPCS customers, possibly as the “value brand” for market expansion, as the HSPA and LTE spectrum holdings overlap between both current networks in the top 25 markets that it’s currently targeting for LTE service and will not directly address rural access yet.
Even with the planned transition, the new company will still be behind in terms of total spectrum compared to AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, but the combined holdings will at least ensure that it will stay in a solid fourth place behind the big three carriers and at least provide enough of a presence to maintain a semblance of competition in the current market.