T-Mobile upgrading Columbus area for 4G LTE technology

An upgrade to the T-Mobile infrastructure in the Columbus market should lead to improved coverage and speeds when the installation of 4G LTE technology is completed later this year, a store manager said Monday. AT&T and Sprint also appear to be making plans for their own local 4G LTE networks.

“What we’re doing is rolling out our LTE. You’ll probably see a lot of upgrades to the towers,” said Bruce Love, manager of the T-Mobile store at Cross Country Plaza off Macon Road.

Seattle-based T-Mobile has just begun work on five cellular sites, according to Columbus building permits. Those locations are 2300 Double Churches Rd., 1585 Northside Industrial Blvd., 7180 Schomburg Rd., 302 Ford Drive and 2944 Warm Springs Rd.

LTE is an acronym for “long-term evolution,” an industry standard for technology used to not only connect basic voice calls, but to provide the high-speed data transmission used for today’s smartphones, tablets and personal computers.

Love said the technology should give customers more reliable service, allowing for “deeper building penetration” both inside structures, but also outdoors.

“It’s like during your spring months when the trees and the leaves are real heavy, there will be better penetration through foliage and stuff like that,” said Love, explaining the move should also free up more spectrum locally for data transmission. That should provide more seamless service and fewer dropped calls.

Competitor Verizon Wireless launched its 4G LTE service in Columbus last July, while AT&T has yet to pull the trigger on the technology in Columbus.

However, AT&T did unveil the new service in the nearby Alabama market of Auburn-Opelika in early December. And it has started rolling LTE out in various Georgia markets, including in Macon, Albany and the northwest Georgia area around Dalton, all within the last three weeks.

“I can’t give a specific timeline for Columbus,” AT&T spokeswoman Ann Elsas said Monday. “Nationwide deployment is expected to be complete by the end of this calendar year.”

Sprint, meanwhile, doesn’t have LTE, but it did announce in mid-January that it has begun work in 28 markets to add the technology, including Columbus and Albany. No timeline was given for its debut.

T-Mobile recently has been dropping less-than-subtle hints that it is moving in the direction of LTE nationwide. In a Facebook post, it told followers: “Ready to go even faster? LTE will reach 200M (million) T-Mobile customers by the end of 2013.”

There have been media reports that the company has been testing LTE speeds in the major markets of Kansas City and Las Vegas. “It’s not just about having LTE. It’s about building a massive LTE footprint. We already have sites that are lit up with LTE,” Frank Sickinger, T-Mobile vice president for business sales, told the website, CIO, in a recent interview.