The US arm of mobile operator T-Mobile has bought an extra 10MHz of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) in order to allow it to further expand the reach and capacity of its 4G LTE network in the country.

T-Mobile US (formerly T-Mobile USA until its merger with MetroPCS) confirmed the agreement to buy the 10MHz block from US Cellular for $308m in cash on Friday. MetroPCS subscribers will also be able to benefit from the deal.

“In today’s marketplace, spectrum is gold,” John Legere, President and CEO of T-Mobile US, said. “This is a rare opportunity to secure precious AWS spectrum in key markets that will immediately be put to use by both T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers. This deal expands our network and capacity, allowing for a broader roll-out of 4G LTE and an even faster and more reliable 4G experience for our customers – in addition to spurring competition in the wireless marketplace.”

The company said the spectrum covers an area containing 32 million people in 29 markets in the Mississippi Valley region including St. Louis; Nashville; Kansas City; Memphis; Lexington; Little Rock-North Little Rock; Birmingham; New Orleans; and Louisville.

The purchase, which is still subject to FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and other regulatory checks, gives T-Mobile USA nearly all of the AWS spectrum (which uses the 1700MHz frequencies for uplink and 2100MHz for the downlink) following an auction of the lots in 2006.

Following its green-lighted merger with MetroPCS in May this year, T-Mobile US has been trying to revamp its network to grow market share which has included widening the reach of its network and introducing simpler ‘un-carrier’ plans that cost a flat $50 per month for calls, texts and data.

While an additional 10MHz of spectrum may not sound like a lot, every little bit counts in the spectrum race and the opportunities to purchase it are rare, due in part to its potential value when delivering services. Successfully negotiating enough spectrum to provide capacity for the ever-increasing amount of mobile data being used is vital for any operator that wants to remain a key player, regardless of which country they operate in.

In the UK, EE is the only nationwide network operator that can offer 4G to its customers and even this network too was only running initially on a 10MHz chunk of spectrum in the 1800MHz band. Nevertheless, EE will soon have competition on its hands as other UK operators can start rolling out their services in the next few months.

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