Can T-Mobile Take Down the Nation's Top Wireless Carrier This Year?

By Chris

Source: T-Mobile.

In and end of the year blog post, T-Mobile'sCEO John Legere laid out a few predictions for 2015 -- one of which was that the so-called Un-carrier would take the nation's No. 1 wireless carrier, Verizon , head on.

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"We'll go toe-to-toe with Verizon's network almost everywhere... and win," Legere wrote. It's a bold statement, but not all that surprising from the carrier that's been fighting tooth-and-nail for the past few years to win customers away fromAT&T and Verizon.

So, can T-Mobile deliver on its prediction? Let's check the facts.

Bigger is betterThe crux of Leger's prediction rests on T-Mobile's ability to nearly match Verizon's 4G LTE points-of-presence (POPs). This is the stick by which wireless carriers measure how many people they can reach. Here's how the carrier's POPs stack up right now:

T-Mobile made it one of its goals in 2014 to expand its LTE footprint, and it performed magnificently. The company surpassed its 250 million target back in October and hasn't looked back since.

Verizon's vast network isunmatched, and T-Mobile knows it. Legere wrote in the post that he likes it when people tell him where there are coverage gaps compared to AT&T and Verizon.

"I love it because it means they're comparing us to the big guys and expecting us to be competitive -- this would have been unthinkable just two years ago."

But while expanding LTE coverage is important, it doesn't exactly translate to superior network coverage -- just ask Sprint. As of mid-2014, RootMetrics listed T-Mobile in the No. 3 spot for overall network performance, with Verizon and AT&T firmly in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.

T-Mobile is using some of its 700 MHz spectrum block to enhance its network, which will improve some of the carrier's indoor coverage and make already-strong portions of the network even stronger, but that's only happening in a few select markets right now.

So, while T-Mobile will increase its LTE connections significantly this year, it doesn't necessarily mean its network quality will match Verizon's.

Making LTE fasterOne thing T-Mobile has going for it against Verizon is its network speed in major metropolitan areas. The company's been busy launching its Wideaband LTE in 121 cities, which can boost network speeds by up to 50% in some places.

That's allowed the carrier to make some claims about having the fastest LTE connections -- and it does in some areas. But matching Verizon's overall nationwide network speeds won't be easy.

Here's how T-Mobile compares to Verizon on reliability and speed as of mid-2014:

Source: RootMetrics.

Though T-Mobile may have some bright spots in major cities, its overall speeds still doesn't compare to Verizon, and neither does its reliability.

The verdictEven with T-Mobile's rapid network expansion and improvements, I find it hard to believe the carrier can surpass -- or even match -- Verizon's network quality in 2015. The carrier will make lots of improvements to its network for sure (likely leaving Sprint in the dust), but Verizon's spent years building its No. 1 network, and that won't be undone in just 12 months.

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Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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