5G and Beyond

T-Mobile gets ready for its next big 5G buildout

T-Mobile is nearing the end of its massive 2.5GHz network buildout, an effort that should bring its speedy 5G service to roughly 300 million Americans by the end of this year.

After that, the company said it will start adding its C-band and 3.45GHz spectrum holdings into the network, a move that is expected to increase speeds for customers and add more capacity to T-Mobile's 5G service.

"Our C-band spectrum clears in December of this year, and our plan has been to begin deploying it along with our 3.45 GHz spectrum shortly after in 2024," a T-Mobile representative told Light Reading in response to questions about the timeline of T-Mobile's next 5G buildout program.

In 2021, T-Mobile executives said they would "look at starting deployment of that [Auction] 110 spectrum [in 3.45 GHz] in 2023 in conjunction with the C-band spectrum." Last month, however, executives said the buildout is "probably a 2024 deployment plan for us."

The T-Mobile representative clarified that the operator would begin preparing for the buildout in 2023 and start deployment in 2024. The representative denied that T-Mobile's buildout has been delayed.

T-Mobile is poised to add a significant amount of spectrum to its existing 5G network. The operator spent around $10.7 billion on C-band spectrum in the FCC's 2021 auction and another $2.9 billion on 3.45GHz spectrum in the FCC's Auction 110 that ended in 2022. T-Mobile's C-band holdings won't be freed by satellite operators until the end of this year.

Further, T-Mobile executives have said that the operator will deploy its C-band and 3.45GHz holdings via dual-mode radios that support both bands. T-Mobile's current 5G vendors are Ericsson and Nokia. AT&T, meanwhile, is hoping to move more quickly by deploying each band with separate radios.

T-Mobile has not disclosed how much it might cost to put its C-band and 3.45GHz spectrum into action. However, the operator has signaled that its overall capital expenses (capex) should decline in the coming years. T-Mobile's capex totaled $3.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, up 15.5% year over year.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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