T-Mobile may be battling it out with competitors like AT&T and Verizon in a race to deploy License Assisted Access technology, but the Un-carrier has already beaten them to the punch with a different unlicensed boost: LTE-U.

The Un-carrier on Monday said LTE-U is already live for users with compatible handsets in six cities across the nation, including select locations in Bellevue, Wash.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Dearborn, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Richardson, Texas; and Simi Valley, Calif. More locations will be rolling out later this year, T-Mobile noted.

LTE-U allows T-Mobile to utilize 20 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band to boost capacity and speeds where customer need it most.

The announcement marks an elaboration on comments from CTO Neville Ray during the Un-carrier’s first quarter 2017 earnings call. At the time, Ray indicated LTE-U was live in T-Mobile’s network in “a few locations,” but didn’t provide any specifics.

Ray added that both LTE-U and License Assisted Access (LAA) will be a “big deal” in terms of boosting the capacity and capability of wireless networks in 2018 and 2019, and said testing and trials of both technologies were ongoing.

Testing continues

Earlier this month, T-Mobile sought an extension from the FCC to continue testing of pre-commercial LTE-U equipment.

In its filing, the Un-carrier asked the Commission for permission to extend its testing of LTE-U equipment through December 28. According to the document, the tests will be conducted using 10 small cells operating on both AWS-1 spectrum and unlicensed 5 GHz spectrum in a downlink-only mode. The Un-carrier plans to carry out the trials in Dallas; Largo, Fla.; Montebello, Long Beach, and Los Angeles, Calif.; Lynnwood and Bellevue, Wash.; Stone Mountain and Alpharetta, Ga.; Dearborn, Mich.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Las Vegas.

T-Mobile said the field tests will help it test new products in a controlled environment outside the lab.

“T-Mobile is working with equipment vendors to conduct product testing of new LTE-U equipment,” the Un-carrier wrote. “The trials at the various locations listed below will allow T-Mobile to test prototype equipment in outdoor and indoor setting prior to equipment certification … Grant of an STA will help T-Mobile to develop and test innovative equipment to provide service to consumers.”