T-Mobile: 5G Launch in 2H19 Should Double LTE Speeds

Mike Dano
4/25/2019

T-Mobile's CTO said that the operator expects to be able to roughly double the speeds it currently provides on its 600MHz LTE network when it switches on 5G services in the latter part of this year.

At least, that's what T-Mobile is expecting to offer on its own, without a merger with Sprint -- a situation that some analysts believe is increasingly likely given reports of regulatory opposition to the deal.

T-Mobile's Neville Ray said today on the operator's earnings conference call that T-Mobile is currently providing average speeds of around 30-35Mbit/s on its LTE network, and those speeds will increase to around 60-70Mbit/s when it launches 5G on around 30MHz of its 600MHz spectrum. Ray said T-Mobile would launch 5G in the second half of this year when compatible devices are available.

Ray added that peak 5G speeds on the operator's network would reach into the "hundreds of megabytes per second."

Importantly, Ray explained that T-Mobile is installing 5G capabilities on the 600MHz network equipment it is currently deploying, such that the operator will be able to switch on 5G services when 5G compatible devices are available. He said T-Mobile has already rolled out 600MHz equipment across 1 million square miles in 44 states covering 100 million POPs (points of presence, which is roughly equal to people), and will eventually add 600MHz equipment to "tens of thousands" of cell towers across the country.

Interestingly, T-Mobile added in its quarterly filing that it expects to make 5G available on its millimeter-wave spectrum in conjunction with the launch of the 5G version of the Samsung Galaxy S10. "T-Mobile also owns millimeter wave spectrum that comprises an average of 264 MHz covering over 110 million POPs in the 28 GHz band and 105 MHz covering nearly 45 million POPs in the 39 GHz band," the operator wrote.

T-Mobile disclosed its 600MHz 5G launch plans at the beginning of last year, prior to the operator's agreement to merge with Sprint. The operator said it would offer 5G nationwide by 2020. If T-Mobile receives regulatory approval to merge with Sprint, it has said the combined company would be able to build a super-fast 5G network that will use both T-Mobile's 600MHz spectrum and Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum. In its latest filing with the FCC, T-Mobile promised the combined company would be able to provide average 5G speeds of 153Mbit/s by 2021 and 451Mbit/s by 2024.


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However, analysts are increasingly concerned that T-Mobile and Sprint will not receive regulatory approval for their merger -- despite assurances from T-Mobile CEO John Legere today that he remains "optimistic and confident" that the deal will be approved by June.

"We’re not optimistic" that the transaction will be approved, wrote the Wall Street analysts at research firm MoffettNathanson in a note to investors today. The analysts also wrote that Sprint and T-Mobile don't have many good options to restructure the deal to receive regulatory approval, considering spectrum or prepaid divestitures likely won't aid the overall competitive environment in the wireless industry.

"And, if they get through the Federal reviews AND the state AGs, they would then have to deal with the California PUC, which would have to affirmatively find the deal to be in the public interest for Californian consumers in order for the deal to proceed within the state," the MoffettNathanson analysts wrote. "The CPUC's Public Advocate's office made their current position relatively clear earlier this week when they filed a formal statement in opposition to the previous week's settlement between TMobile/Sprint and the California Emerging Technology Fund (which some mistakenly took as a sign that the CPUC was warming to the deal in return for concessions). Proceeding with a merger that would excise certain states might still be doable... but California?"

Aside from ongoing concerns over T-Mobile's proposed merger with Sprint, T-Mobile executives at the operator cheered another solid financial performance by the operator in the first quarter. T-Mobile reported branded postpaid phone net customer additions of 656,000 in Q1 2019. The operator ended the period with 81.3 million total customers.

More importantly, T-Mobile raised its expectations for 2019 to branded postpaid net additions of 3.1 to 3.7 million, up from prior guidance of 2.6 to 3.6 million.

Financially, T-Mobile reported total revenues of $11.1 billion, up 6%, and net income of $908 million, up 35%.

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

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daveburstein
daveburstein
4/26/2019 | 9:50:31 AM
T-Mobile mmWave
Mike - Thanks for the detail here. Neville on an FCC filing about the "New T-Mobile," including Sprint, estimated that 10% of his future network would be mmWave. Maybe that will change if he doesn't get Sprint's mid-band spectrum.