Denver Suffers Because Carriers Won’t Trade Spectrum


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denverDenver has one of the slowest mobile data speeds in the country, experts agree. A combination of more people moving into the area, increasing demand on cell networks, is one reason but the larger reason has to do with spectrum. Of the four companies servicing the area, not one company has a big chunk of spectrum, reports the Denver Post.

AllNet Insights & Analytics President Brian Goemmer says T-Mobile owns a good amount of Advanced Wireless Spectrum in Denver, however AT&T and Verizon own portions in-between. By not owning contiguous bands, none of the carriers can offer the top upload and download speeds carriers offer in other cities, according to Goemmer.

“What’s a little bit surprising is that Verizon and T-Mobile would have traded, but Verizon won’t trade with T-Mobile in this market because there is no net benefit to Verizon,” Goemmer said. Trading, he said, would “only make T-Mobile stronger.”

In signal tests conducted this summer by RootMetrics, Denver scored at the bottom of 125 cities for mobile data speeds. T-Mobile’s median data speed was 4.4 megabits per second. That compares with a typical home’s broadband connection of 20 mbps. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all posted data speeds below 10 mbps. Compare that to Atlanta, where Verizon’s median was 33.3 mbps, or Lansing, MI, where T-Mobile hit 41.5 Mbps.  

Why are mobile data speeds so slow in Denver?

An AT&T spokeswoman tells the Denver Post the area’s growing population, and their penchant for streaming video on their mobile devices, is putting demands on the network. “We see more than 60 percent of our traffic is mobile and we’re working as fast as we can to add LTE capacity,” said the spokeswoman.

To boost mobile data speeds, T-Mobile is adding antennas to its cell towers and to its newer phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The multiple-input, multiple-out (MIMO) technology adds redundancy, creating two paths for data to get to a tower or to a phone. It has implemented the technology in 300+ cities, including Denver.

Sprint’s network suffered from calls being dropped as mobile data was interrupted in Denver. That’s why the carrier replaced all of its network equipment at “hundreds of 2.5 GHz cell sites” in the past 18 months, according to a spokesman. Sprint doesn’t own AWS spectrum in the metro, and competes on the PCS wireless network.

AT&T, which does own AWS spectrum in the market, has added 10 new cell towers. The company says it’s focused on Denver and Colorado as a whole.

More towers and new equipment are helping boost mobile wireless data networks in Denver. New figures released by RootMetrics this month show all four carriers hit very slightly improved wireless data speeds above 10 mpbs.

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