By Martin Kidston
The mobile operator company T-Mobile joined Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday in announcing a plan to expand high-speed broadband in portions of eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.
The announcement comes roughly two weeks after T-Mobile purchased several spectrum licenses covering much of the state from cable operator Charter Communications.
The licenses cover roughly 120,000 square miles and serve an area with a population of 1.1 million people.
“Increased access to high-speed internet and enhanced mobile coverage will further strengthen our state’s business climate,” said Bullock. “It will enable Montana businesses to thrive in a global economy and create more job opportunities for hard-working Montana families.”
According to the governor’s office, T-Mobile plans to aggressively build out the state for high-speed wireless broadband. As a result, Bullock said, portions of Montana will receive better Internet access and stronger cell-phone coverage.
The results, Bullock said, will enable rural Montana businesses to compete in the broader economy.
“Montana’s economy is strong and we’re seeing great opportunities for businesses to grow and expand all across the state,” said Bullock.
Bullock encouraged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to support the transfer of three 700 MHz spectrum licenses from Charter to T-Mobile. The licenses cover nearly all of the state east of Interstate 15 and include four northern Wyoming counties.
The licenses, known as LTE band 12, support two-thirds of the phones in use by T-Mobile and include the cities of Great Falls and Billings, neither of which have T-Mobile coverage.
Areas of western Montana already had T-Mobile coverage, including Missoula, Helena and Kalispell.
According to T-Mobile, the company’s LTE network covers 312 million people, including 215 million who are covered by 700 MHz band 12. The company says the 700 MHz band provides better penetration than the older spectrum.